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Rome’s Colosseum gets multi-million euro makeover

The first phase of a multi-million-euro makeover of Rome's Colosseum was completed Friday with Prime Minister Matteo Renzi pledging cash would be made available to spruce up other crumbling historic sites.

Rome's Colosseum gets multi-million euro makeover
The restoration project cost some €25 million. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

In a project largely funded by fashion and shoewear group Tod's, the amphitheatre where gladiators once jousted with lions has been water-sprayed to remove centuries of encrusted dirt and grime.
   
Works to strengthen the arched structures of the northern and southern facades and replace metal gates and barriers in the ground level arches have also been completed.
   
Tod's, whose billionaire owner Diego Della Valle reportedly put up €25 million for the works, said it was proud to have been part of the restoration of “a true historical symbol of Italy.”
   
The Colosseum is the latest in a string of famous Italian monuments to have been renovated with funds from private donors, often from the luxury sector.
   
Roman fashion house Fendi paid for a 16-month clean-up of the Trevi fountain which has been acclaimed by visitors. And upmarket jeweller Bulgari is behind the ongoing renovation of the Spanish steps, also located in the capital's historic centre.
   
But across the country there are many historic sites which have fallen into disrepair due to a lack of funds, most notably the ancient archaeological site of Pompeii.

Renzi vowed that would not continue. “We have to stop the arguments over Italy's cultural heritage because it is not only the thing we can be most proud of and a major part of our identity, but it also has enormous potential,” he said.


Italian Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi at the Colosseum. Photo: Gabriel Buoys/AFP
   
“The time of complaining there is no money for culture is over. Public and private, the resources are there.”
   
Renzi's government has promised €18 million ($20 million) for a second phase of renovation of the Colosseum which will involve rebuilding the arena floor and make it capable of hosting concerts and other cultural events, including re-enactments of some of the kind of shows the ancient Romans enjoyed.
   
The floor was removed by excavators in the late 19th century while the bits of the exterior structure that are missing were mostly removed for other construction projects in the city, including the underground.
   
There are also plans for a new visitor centre and the renovation of the underground vaults where wild animals and prisoners destined for public execution were kept ahead of their appearances before the Roman crowds.
   
Completed in 80 AD, the Colosseum was the biggest amphitheatre built during the Roman empire.
   
It stands 48.5 metres (159 feet) high and was capable of hosting 80,000 spectators. It now welcomes over six million visitors a year.

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CULTURE

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.

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