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.
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.