All you need to know about the Circo Massimo Experience, an augmented reality visit to Circus Maximus fun for the whole family. Our unbiased Circo Massimo Experience review.
The Circo Massimo Experience is a way of visiting the Circus Maximus in Rome with the aid of augmented reality goggles that make you see the Circus as it was at the time of its splendor and in subsequent centuries.
It is a fun way to engage with the Circus Maximus, an otherwise little-maintained archaeological structure in Rome and a fun sightseeing experience adults and kids can enjoy (see blow my notes about visiting with kids).
We did the Circo Massimo experience with our kids the other day and we had a blast: at age 9 and 11, they loved the goggles and the video game-like experience but they also learned a surprising amount!
After such a positive day, I recommend the Circo Massimo Experience as one of the best things to do in Rome with kids. This article is our review and all you need to know about it.
Where does the Circo Massimo Experience take place?
The Circo Massimo Experience takes place in the South-East side of the Circus Maximus, in Rome City center.
The entrance is on Viale Aventino, right in front of FAO and the tram stops and the whole experience happens along the short side of the Circus, a contained and easy to manage area.
The official address is: Circo Massimo Ecperience, Viale Aventino, 00186 Rome
Nearest bus/metro station: tram n3 stops right in front of it. Metro B Circo Massimo also brings you few meters from the Experience entrance.
How to get tickets to the Circo Massimo Experience
Access to the Circo Massimo Experience is organized in time slots of 40 minutes each.
Tickets can be purchases in advance (recommended) on the spot, online, at the ticket booth or at Rome’s Tourist info point.
Please note: discounted family tickets are available but they can only be booked in person or over the phone. Tickets are usually sold out a few days in advance. The official ticket site this one.
Arrival and gear
We booked our tickets three days in advance and arrived at the Circo Massimo experience entrance 15 minutes before our time slot, as requested.
We didn’t have to queue. However, these 15 minutes were useful as we had to fill out a few forms and comply with health and safety checks. In summer 2021, these include:
- Showing a valid green pass and ID (over 12 only)
- Filling out a contact tracing form (ID and phone number)
- Signing a waiver declaring we agreed to the children using the visors and assuming responsibility for supervising them during the experience
- Temperature check
Then, a kind member of staff equipped us with a safety visor each, a set of disposable headphones and a pair of Augmented reality goggles, with simple explanations about how to care for them and how to use them.
All this done, we were escorted to the first stop and the show began!
How the Circus Massimo Experience works
The Circo Massimo Experience is a journey between 8 different spots, all along a path inside the Circus Maximus.
You walk from one spot to the other following the easy-to-follow arrows along the path and you carry the visors with your hands, only lifting them to your eyes when reaching each AR station.
This is important to keep you and the kids safe: the visors must not be worn while walking around as they can impede a clear vision of your surroundings.
While the experience is immersive, you never have around your head oppressive visors and you can take them on and off easily, should you need to, for whatever reason.
This is the main difference between Virtual Reality and Augmented reality: this augmented reality experience enhances what you see around you, never leading you to lose a sense of where you are or contact with the real world.
Each spot has an info panel with info about the Circus.
All you need to do is to lift your goggles to your eyes, look at the info panel to make the show start, and look ahead: in a matter of seconds, a narrating voice starts telling you about what is in front of you and AR techniques show you how the ruins used to look when still in use.
The visors are easy to use and the show very cool: the reconstruction is easy to follow, very impressive, immersive (you can look around and see the place from different perspectives, it is not just a video playing in front of you) and the explanations very good.
As a Roman history graduate and Rome-born and bred, I tend to be fussy about the quality of this stuff but I believe this hit a sweet spot between education and entertainment.
The 8 VR stations are positioned in such a way to showcase different parts of the Circus.
The first one focuses on the area and what it would have looked like in the most ancient times when the Circus hosted ancient rural festivities to celebrate the God Consus.
The following stations move onto the centuries of its splendor, when several emperors embellished it with triumphal arches, statues of ancient Roman Gods and Goddesses and treasures.
Finally, the second to last station talks about more recent years, when the Circus was used to host a gasometer and then as an exhibition space, before being returned to Rome as an archaeological treasure.
The last station brings back to life the excitement of the ancient chariot races, which used to occur in the Circus.
This last stop was a highlight for out kids especially and showed why chariot races where such as popular pastime in Ancient Rome: the excitement is palpable even in virtual form!
The Circo Massimo Experience with kids: what you need to know, what our kids made of it
We did the Circo Massimo experience with our kids aged 9 and 11, who loved it.
At the start, a sign says that children under 14 should not wear visors, which left me unsure about the suitability of the event.
However, after reading about VR/AR risks for kids, I felt the short duration of the experience and the type of visor meant it was safe enough for my children as a one-off experience – this was, however, a personal call: make sure you do your own research and/or ask your practitioner to make an informed decision for your family.
The path in the Circus Maximus is dusty and uneven but easy to negotiate for kids In sandals or runners.
The walking distances are minimal but children must carry their own visors. This can cause a little tiredness to their arms at the end of the experience but nothing the promise of gelato cannot solve.
Good to know: there is a lovely gelato place a few meters down Viale Aventino!
The stops are all interesting for kids.
The first one has the big wow factor of the AR and the last one has some surprises (that I will not reveal!) that means the start and end of the experience are equally exciting but each station has something cool to see and learn about.
My children adored the spots that showed us the tabernae, the ancient shops that used to run along the Circus and the reconstruction of the triumphal arch and chariot races.
I also found the explanations about the origin of the circus valley very informative.
I recommend the experience to children age eight and up in terms of enjoyment and learning opportunities. I do not find this experience suitable for toddlers, although you can easily have a little one trotting beside you while the rest of the family uses the visors.
Make sure you keep an eye on them at all times since the terrain is uneven and potentially unsafe for little ones.
The Circus Maximus experience is not stroller-friendly.
What to pack for the circus Maximus experience
The Circus Maximus experience is an outdoor event and you only need what the weather requires: sun hat, very light clothing, sunscreen in summer, and an outer layer in colder times.
There is no water in the Circus itself but there are several nasoni fountains in Rome and reusable water pouches are gifted to you at the end of the experience, which is a nice touch. A toilet is available at the ticket booth and cafes, restaurants and gelato places are nearby.
Due to the uneven terrain, I recommend wearing comfortable shoes or walking sandals for your visit, although you don’t need any special gear nor abide by a dress code. You can read the type of shoes I recommend for Rome here.
What else to see near Circus Maximus
The Circo Massimo Experience lasts about 40 minutes, leaving you plenty of time to visit nearby attractions.
In the are, you find teh few wonderful attracrions, all worth seeing and easy to reach from the Circus: