Colosseum’s new director pledges to rid the area of the ‘souk’

The recently appointed director of the Colosseum has pledged to clear the “souk” surrounding the monument.

Colosseum's new director pledges to rid the area of the 'souk'
Street vendors selling hats by the Colosseum. Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

In an interview with Corriere della Sera, Alfonsina Russo said that illegal street hawkers must be cleared away from the square around the Colosseum and “legality restored”.

“Piazza del Colosseo is a souk, and we'll have to work to reach the goal of legality and also give the impression to those coming to Italy that it is a civilised country,” she said.

Russo, who was appointed to the role last week by Culture Minister Dario Franceschini, also aspires to open up the amphitheatre to rock concerts as a way of returning it to its “original function”.

The Colosseum is in the midst of a multi-million-euro restoration funded by shoemaker Tod's, including a renovation of the arena floor.

“I want it to be a place frequented by ordinary people, where Romans can watch spectacles and wander around like people did during the time of the emperors,” Russo told the newspaper.

“It would be wonderful if Sting or Bono could perform here. I want a place that is living, vibrant, not just a museum which you visit once in your lifetime.”

Initial phases of the renovation project have also included spray-cleaning to get rid of centuries' worth of grime, strengthening of the northern and southern facades, and replacement of metal gates and barriers in the arches at ground level.

In October, the top levels of the monument were opened up to tourists for the first time in 40 years.

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 held ahead of their appearances before the Roman crowds.


‘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.