Durres Walking Tour with Archeological Museum & Cognac Tasting
- Durres Amphitheater: Explore the half-excavated walls and extensive underground tunnels of one of the Balkans' largest Roman arenas, where 20,000 spectators once watched gladiators mix it up with lions.
- Archeological Museum: Tour a modern facility that houses a treasure trove of artifacts from the region's Greek and Roman eras, from large columns and statuary to a collection of miniature busts of Aphrodite (Venus) and locally minted coins.
- Free time: With its ancient Byzantine walls, steep and narrow streets, palm-lined boulevards, impressive mosques, sidewalk cafes, and beachfront promenades, this is a town made for wandering.
- Skanderbeg Cognac: Visit a maker of traditional Albanian cognac, where you'll enjoy some tasty snacks and sample the renowned brandy made from distilled grapes, plant extracts, and fruit essences aged in oak vats.
About this Durres Tour
The ancient Illyrians who founded what was then known as Epidamnos in 627 B.C. knew a good thing when they saw it. This Adriatic port, just 124 miles across the Adriatic from the heel of Italy, has remained a coveted stronghold ever since.
When the Romans took over in 229 B.C., they renamed the city Dyrrachium – and ran it as a military and naval center that started humbly but gained prominence. By the 2nd century A.D., their plus-sized amphitheater was open for business, hosting gladiatorial contests in a big way.
Alas, the rise of Christianity in the 3rd century was the beginning of the end for gladiator combat. The abandoned arena's huge floor was repurposed into a cemetery, with one space in its warren of underground rooms converted to a chapel adorned by impressive mosaics. Then the site was lost for centuries, completely forgotten until excavations in the 1960s. Even today, the amphitheater is only half unearthed; the other half is the foundation for residential housing.
Or perhaps, was. By the end of 2016, Albania and a cultural preservation organization will have paid residents around 760,000 euros for their homes – and demolished them, revealing what's been hidden. As of this writing, the renovations that would remove the amphitheater from a "Seven Most Endangered" list of heritage sites are on schedule. We can only hope that when you visit, you'll find the results worth commending. Perhaps over a glass of fine cognac.
We who are about to die 15 percent of the time salute you
When you visit the amphitheater, forget what you know from movies about gladiators. Example: They weren't always slaves; many were ordinary blokes seeking fame and yes ... product endorsements. Only about 15 percent of bouts were fought to the death, as referees would likely halt a fight once serious blood was drawn – training gladiators was costly, and owners, couldn't afford to lose one per match. Plus, true fans valued bravado and skill more than blood and gore. Like their modern counterparts, they wanted their heroes to survive and compete again.
Please make your way to the Venetian Tower at Rruga Anastas Durrsaku, Durres to meet your guide.
Entrance fee to Roman Amphitheatre and Ethnographic Museum are included.
Plan to walk a total of 1 mile with up to 150 steps over varying surfaces including cobblestones, tile and flat terrain.
Walking Tour, Cultural, Food & Wine
Vehicle sizes vary, depending on the size of the group.
English, German, Spanish, Italian, French
Tour Participation Requirements
This experience is rated moderate. Full participation may require extended periods of walking over even and uneven surfaces, steep terrain and/or water activity in a slight current. There may be steps, inclines, cobblestone surfaces, and extended periods of standing. Participants with physical limitations should take this into account.
Suitable for all ages. Travelers must be 18 years of age or older to participate in the cognac and wine tasting portion of the tour so bring photo ID for proof of age.
Special Medical Restriction
Travelers must be in good health, disclose their physical fitness and advise any conditions that might impact their participation in the tour.
Full refunds issued for cancellations made 7 full days prior to the date and time of requested services. Cancellations made within the 7-day and 72-hour window will receive a 50% refund of purchase total. Purchases are non-refundable inside of 72 hours.
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