Italy earmarks €18m to rebuild Colosseum floor

Italy has earmarked over €18 million to rebuild the arena floor in the Colosseum where gladiators once fought wild beasts, Culture Minister Dario Franceschini said on Tuesday.

Italy earmarks €18m to rebuild Colosseum floor
A man dressed as a centurion walks past the Colosseum. Photo: Filippo Monteforte AFP

“A promise kept: the Colosseum will have its arena once more. Plan for reconstruction financed,” he said on Twitter after announcing €18.5 million euros for a refurbishment which could see the ancient space host modern day cultural events.

In total, the cultural ministry approved €80 million euros worth of investments in the country's museums and heritage sites.

Of that, €18 million will go towards enlarging the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, while five million has been set aside for the Museum of Ancient ships in Pisa, where nine Roman cargo ships discovered in 1998 are set to goon display.

Franceschini said in December last year that he hoped to rebuild the wooden and sand floor in Rome's famous 2,000-year-old monument, after it was removed by excavators in the late 19th century.

The idea is that the arena could be used once more to house events and perhaps even re-enactments of spectacular Roman-era shows, while the area below where the beasts, scenery and props were kept would be turned into a museum.

The biggest amphitheatre built during the Roman empire, the Colosseum stands 48.5 metres (159 foot) high. In Roman times, up to 80,000 spectators would throng there to see gladiator greats such as Carpophores – who reportedly defeated a bear, lion, leopard and rhinoceros in one battle – or cheer on mock sea battles held in the flooded arena.

It now welcomes over six million visitors a year.

Long-delayed repairs, funded to the tune of €25 million by Italian billionaire Diego Della Valle, began in 2013 and are expected to be finished in early 2016.


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Why Friday the 13th isn’t an unlucky date in Italy

Unlucky for some, but not for Italians. Here's why today's date isn't a cause for concern in Italy - but Friday the 17th is.

Why Friday the 13th isn't an unlucky date in Italy

When Friday the 13th rolls around, many of us from English-speaking countries might reconsider any risky plans. And it’s not exactly a popular date for weddings in much of the western world.

But if you’re in Italy, you don’t need to worry about it.

There’s no shortage of strongly-held superstitions in Italian culture, particularly in the south. But the idea of Friday the 13th being an inauspicious date is not among them.

Though the ‘unlucky 13’ concept is not unknown in Italy – likely thanks to the influence of American film and TV – here the number is in fact usually seen as good luck, if anything.

The number 17, however, is viewed with suspicion and Friday the 17th instead is seen as the unlucky date to beware of.

Just as some Western airlines avoid including the 13th row on planes, you might find number 17 omitted on Italian planes, street numbering, hotel floors, and so on – so even if you’re not the superstitious type, it’s handy to be aware of.

The reason for this is thought to be because in Roman numerals the number 17 (XVII) is an anagram of the Latin word VIXI, meaning ‘I have lived’: the use of the past tense apparently suggests death, and therefore bad luck. It’s less clear what’s so inauspicious about Friday.

So don’t be surprised if, next time Friday 17th rolls around, you notice some Italian shops and offices closed per scaramanzia’.

But why then does 13 often have a positive connotation in Italy instead?

You may not be too surprised to learn that it’s because of football.

Ever heard of Totocalcio? It’s a football pools betting system in which players long tried to predict the results of 13 different matches.

There were triumphant calls of ho fatto tredici! – ‘I’ve done thirteen’ – among those who got them all right. The popular expression soon became used in other contexts to mean ‘I hit the jackpot’ or ‘that was a stroke of luck!’

From 2004, the number of games included in Totocalcio rose to 14, but you may still hear winners shout ‘ho fatto tredici’ regardless.

Other common Italian superstitions include touching iron (not wood) for good luck, not toasting with water, and never pouring wine with your left hand.