Why here's one right here.
For once, this was a Monday morning that I was looking forward to. To begin, we went for breakfast at the place we lunched at the previous day. Then we wandered back toward our apartment (except for me, who had to go back to the apartment itself to collect a mobile phone that one of us had left behind) and on to the taxi stand which was outside the church a block or so down from us. Then once again we took our lives into our hands by getting into a Roman taxi and made a kamikaze run to the south toward the gladiator school. After the usual traffic dramas, two of the best hours of my life commenced.
The school is run by a historical society, probably as a revenue source. Unfortunately there were only three of us who turned up as paying customers that day (or more precisely, for that session since the sessions are run every couple of hours), and I can't imagine why unless it's simply a case of not enough people knowing about the place.
The entrance consisted of a training hall, some old wooden fortifications, a place where you could photograph your head on the body of a legionary, and a wall of fame showing the leading lights of the historical society as well as famous visitors who have come to the school. (Some of whom I recognised, some of whom I thought "who"?)
When I booked this, the event details said that uniforms are provided. This is only partially true. A tunic is provided, but you wear your own clothes underneath. I probably would have worn something different had I been aware of that. The long trousers and street shoes were probably not the best idea. Also, a tip; if you go, leave your watch at home. It looks ridiculously anachronistic in the photos. (Although it must be said; the school does not provide you with photos. You need to have someone along with you to take them. Those people are treated as "barbarians" who sit in the stands.) The students consisted of two from our group (with the other two on photo-barbarian duties) and a guy from England who was there with his partner. (They had popped over to Rome for a long weekend. Oh, to be able to do that rather than having to endure a 22 hour flight.) Some of the activities required an even number of people so while his girlfriend was not an official student, she was dragooned into some of the training anyway.
Our training was done by one of the few female members who assured us that she is a fully trained gladiator "which means that I can hurt you". She was one of the best parts of the day as well; a great sense of humour and an outstanding enthusiasm for the work.
Training begins with doing a few circuits of a course where you have to jump ropes, dodge weights that are swinging on ropes and so on. You're also supposed to try to do a roll on a mat, which those of us who have done yoga were okay with but I, not having done that sort of exercise for quite some time, declined that part of the circuit because I would have just looked stupid trying it. However if I ever return I shall be prepared next time. After that training with wooden practice swords begins, and you learn the basics of sword craft. (If you show that you are not dangerously inept or stupid and feral, iron swords come later.) Other training includes assembling wooden anti-cavalry spikes. Still more includes basic infantry formations (no, obviously gladiators didn't use those; that's not the point) including rotating the line when defending against attacks by barbarians.
Once the physical training is over you are taken into the equipment rooms where you are shown and can try on various pieces of equipment such as I have here. I'm sure that this helmet would manage to keep all but the heaviest swords swung by all but the strongest swordsmen away from your skull, but I'm not sure that I would care to wear it on a day-to-day basis. No matter how heavy it looks to you, I assure you that it feels considerably heavier. And, as you can imagine, your visibility is severely restricted. If you're getting 100° arc of vision, you're doing extremely well. The other problem is of course that it weighs you down so much that I swear you lose a centimetre of height wearing it. And I don't have a centimetre to spare.
There are no showers at the school so you end up hot, sweaty and tired so it's probably best to do as we did and return to your home base for a shower and a change afterwards. The school will call a taxi for you (since it's way down the end of a driveway off an obscure road). Unfortunately that brought to an end something that I had been looking forward to for a very long time. But on the other hand it was one of those rare things that actually lived up to my expectations of it. Would I go again? I'd do a bit of training first so that I could get even more out of it, but I'd do it in a heartbeat.