Having learnt our lesson the previous day, we decided against a lazy morning and landed at the Colosseum before queues started running long. Again online booking was helpful as there was almost no queue for those in possession of tickets or Roma passes.
Today we decided against the guided tour (just €5.5 per head) and paid for audio guides instead (€5 for one and €8 for two) as we wanted to do things at our own pace because the day was bright and sunny and we didn't want to be rushed.
Big mistake - for two reasons - one, the signs in Italy are very confusing and the self paced tour soon became a hunt for the points mentioned on the map. Second, self paced tour doesn't allow access to lower arena and third level of the Colosseum. Now this information was NOT mentioned upfront. We found this only when we tried to access third level. So it would have been better had we taken the guided tour.
After spending couple of hours in the Colosseum we walked over (200 m away) to Foro Romano (Roman Forum) and Palatine Hill. The online ticket had combined access to both Colosseum and Foro Romano & Palatine Hill area. The ticket also said that we have two day access but what wasn't very clear was that entrance to each attraction was allowed only once. Plus the entrance to Foro Romano and Palatine Hill is common (which I came to know once I reached there) so you have to cover both together. So we ended up covering everything in one day. It turned out to be along day so if you want you can do Colosseum one day and Foro Romano & Palatine Hill the next day.
This ancient site was discovered only in late 20th century and the excavations began only in 1989. Lot of portions are now under renovation and add to the confusion as the route given by map doesn't match the actual accessible route. In the whole confusion we ended up exiting the area to see a sign at the outside that read "Exit Only". That sign should be visible from inside so that we don't exit by mistake.
After a long walk we reached the entrance again only to be told that we need to buy tickets again. After a lot of pleading we were finally allowed back in but it did ruin rest of our day.
Someone had told us that Italy is very chaotic and now we started to understand the true meaning of the word chaotic here. Imagine you are at the entrance of the attraction and as soon as you enter you are greeted with exit signs. At the metro stations we saw instances of one street name sandwiched between two arrows pointing in two opposite directions. You have to look closely to find that one arrow actually belongs to another street name.
After having visited Paris and London in peak season and never once getting confused inspite of throngs of crowds, I was surprised that there were many like us who couldn't figure out where exactly to proceed to once inside the monument. Maps handed to you seem useless as renovations happening in these attractions end up blocking a part of the route on the map and there is no signage in English language to inform you about the alternate path.
I honestly don't have a solution to avoid this confusion except to suggest that read everything carefully and spend a little time understanding the maps handed out. And wherever possible take guided tour - ofcourse only after ensuring that it gives you some benefit (additional access or helps skipping long queues). Infact for Vatican one can pay to just skip the queues (instead of a guided tour) - where you enter the museum with the guide (to skip queues) but once in you are on your own.
Today was also a long day where we had been on our feet for 7 hours and we badly needed some rest. One of us was so tired that we decided to have our dinner in the hotel restaurant itself which turned out to be really great. Everything we ordered was super tasty - I had what I would classify as the best risotto of my life!