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POLLUTION

Rome diverts traffic to protect Colosseum

The city of Rome has barred private vehicles from using the main road to the amphitheatre in order to protect the iconic monument that has been blackened by pollution and is in a poor state.

Rome diverts traffic to protect Colosseum
A view of the Fori Imperiali leading to the Colosseum. Photo: AFP / Alberto Pizzoli

From 0300 GMT Saturday, cars, lorries and other private vehicles were barred from using the last trunk of the avenue Via dei Fori Imperiali, which links Piazza Venezia to the Roman amphitheatre.

Traffic has been diverted to an adjacent route and only public transport will be allowed on the old route.

The decision was taken by the new mayor of Rome, Ignazio Marino of the leftist Democratic Party, who would like eventually to make the Via dei Fori Imperiali a pedestrian area.

The number of visitors to the Colosseum, the biggest ancient Roman amphitheatre ever built, has increased from a million to around six million a year over the past decade, thanks mainly to the 2000 blockbuster film "Gladiator".

But it has also fallen into disrepair in recent years: bits of stone, blackened by pollution, have fallen off and some experts have voiced concern that the foundations are sinking, and the amphitheatre is starting to lean.

Long-delayed repairs to the 2,000-year-old monument, funded by Italian billionaire Diego Della Valle, are in the pipeline — but problems with red tape mean they have yet to get off the ground.
 

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COLOSSEUM

‘High-tech and green’: The new restoration plan for Rome’s Colosseum

Visitors will soon be able to stand in the centre of Rome's famed Colosseum following a revamp using "super technological and green" materials, according to plans unveiled at the weekend.

'High-tech and green': The new restoration plan for Rome's Colosseum
Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

As anyone who has ever visited Rome’s Colosseum will know, the arena – where everything from gladiator battles to executions and countless other public spectacles took place – is not accessible.

But that’s about to change, and visitors will soon be able to see the ancient amphitheatre as the gladiators did, with plans to build a high-tech retractable floor over the ruined central area.

The Italian minister of culture announced the winning bid to restore the arena on Sunday, a project that will allow visitors to view the archeological wonder from ground level as soon as 2023. 

The 2,000 year old structure is currently floorless other than a small platform.

Rome’s landmark Colosseum is currently without a floor, other than a small platform, which is occasionally used for concerts. Photo by Vincenzo PINTO / AFP

The ruins of the underground levels’ walls and tunnels are exposed due to a combination of earthquakes, stone pillaging and natural erosion. 

The new floor will also enable these underground chambers, where gladiators and wild animals awaited their ascension to the killing floor, to be properly ventilated for the first time.

A Milan engineering firm beat 10 competitors who answered a 2020 call for submissions with its vision involving rotating wooden slats.

“It is an ambitious project that will help better conserve and safeguard the archaeological structures,” said culture minister Dario Franceschini.

Franceschini plans to host the Rome G20 culture summit at the Colosseum in July and it may serve as a venue for other major cultural events.

The Colosseum’s executive archaeologist Alfonsina Russo said construction of the arena – which will be the subject of a Europe-wide call for bids of about 15 million euros – should begin by the end of the year or early 2022.

She said the new 3,000 square metre (32,300 square foot) floor should be ready for visitors in 2023.

Before the pandemic around 25,000 people toured the world-famous monument daily, and some 18.5 million euros have been set aside for the project.

The plan presented on Sunday consists of an entirely removable structure made of accoya, a modified, durable wood.

The slats will be rigged with a rotation system meant to permit light and air to circulate to underground passages below the area.

The rainwater that currently pools there will be collected and used to supply the toilets of Rome’s most visited monument.

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