$18 million refit of Colosseum will give visitors a gladiator's view

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$18 million refit of Colosseum will give visitors a gladiator's view
Singers and musicians from the Santa Cecilia academy perform on February 1, 2021 at Rome's landmark Colosseum. Vincenzo PINTO / AFP.

by Elisabetta Povoledo

ROME (NYT NEWS SERVICE).- It is a view that gladiators would once have experienced as they prepared for mortal combat: staring into the banked crowds of the Colosseum, perhaps under the gaze of the mighty Roman emperor himself.

Nearly 2,000 years later, visitors to the Colosseum will again be able to stand in almost the same place and imagine the spectators’ roar, after the Italian Culture Ministry on Sunday announced the winning project in a competition to build a replacement floor for the landmark in Rome.

The chosen design features a lattice of specially treated wooden slats that can be rotated to allow air to circulate and to expose the beehive of subterranean corridors. It was created by a team led by Milan Ingegneria, an engineering consulting company, and is expected to cost about 15 million euros, or $18 million. The surface is expected to be in use by 2023.

At the moment, most of the underground chambers are exposed to view, with only a small section of floor at one end. That section — about 650 square meters, or 7,000 square feet — was installed in 2000 and was used for the first time that year for a staging of “Oedipus Rex,” by Sophocles.

Alfonsina Russo, director of the Colosseum and its archaeological park, said the latest renovation would allow visitors to sample the effect of standing in the middle of the arena.

“Reconnecting the thread of time, we are finally returning to the public the same view that people had from the stage of the monument during antiquity,” she said Sunday during a news conference to announce the winner.

Before the pandemic brought global travel to a near standstill and closed many monuments and museums, the Colosseum was Italy’s most visited site, with more than 7.6 million people taking in its glory in 2019 alone.

Some experts and archaeologists have questioned the need for the covering. Art historian and essayist Tomaso Montanari said, “From the point of view of cultural policy, it serves no purpose.”

He criticized “the idea that the monument, as it is, is not enough and has to be transformed into a location for something else.”

“Monuments are not things to be filled,” he added. “It’s all very ridiculous, it’s Italy seen via Las Vegas.”

© 2021 The New York Times Company

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