The floor of the Roman Colosseum, where gladiators once fought against each other and wild animals, will be restored to its former glory.
Milan Ingegneria, a structural engineering and architecture firm, has won a € 18.5 million (£ 16 million) bid to build and install a retractable floor in the arena that will allow visitors to “see the grandeur of the monument” from its center, Culture Minister Dario Franceschini said on Sunday.
“In 2023, we will once again have the splendor of the Colosseum with its arena,” added Francescini.
The Roman amphitheater, completed by Emperor Titus in 80 AD, once had a wooden floor covered with sand, which was built on a network of tunnels and rooms where gladiators and animals waited before entering the arena.
But the floor was removed in the late 1800s, when archaeologists began excavating the underground levels of the structure. The underground area was opened to the public in 2010, and visitors can also see the tunnels when looking down from the rows of seats.
The new, high-tech stage will be able to quickly cover or uncover the underground networks below, allowing them to be protected from rain or radiated.
Franceschini said the floor will be durable and reversible, which means it could be removed if plans for the Colosseum, which is built to accommodate up to 60,000 spectators, are changed in the future.
The stage will also be able to host cultural events, Francescini added.
“This is an ambitious project that will help preserve and protect the monument and improve its usability,” he said.
The idea to restore the arena of the Colosseum, the largest amphitheater built during the Roman Empire, was first presented by archaeologist Daniele Manacorda in 2014. The idea was supported by Francescini, who said that at that time the arena could be also used for re-enactments of gladiatorial battles. In Roman times, crowds filled the Colosseum to watch gladiators defeat animals, including bears, tigers, elephants, and rhinos.
In 2014, the monument underwent a 25m-euro restoration paid for by luxury brand Tod’s.
The Colosseum reopened to visitors last Monday as coronavirus restrictions were eased. Before the pandemic, it could accommodate up to 3,000 people at once. Currently, only groups of 14 people can enter, and staff must provide a 15-minute gap between each group.