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There’s a new incentive to visit Rome’s Colosseum: it has opened its underground section to the public for the first time in 2,000 years.
The underground levels of the Colosseum in Rome, known as ‘hypogea’, once held the gladiators and animals that fought in the arena. Originally, candlelight illuminated these areas, but sunlight will allow tourists to see these spaces for the first time.
The restoration required has taken 10 years and it hasn’t been straightfoward. The initial plans were formulated by Italian fashion brand Tod’s CEO Diego Della Valle and Rome’s Archaeological Heritage Department in 2011.
Tod’s contributed an essential €25 million to the project, which had three key phases. Firstly, there was a cleaning of the structure’s facade before experts went underground. Once underground, archaeologists, architects and engineers went about conducting photographic surveys and surface mapping.
Finally, the excavators went about the long process of cleaning and washing the underground areas, which had thick layers of dirt and microorganisms.
Speaking about the significance of the restoration at its unveiling, Alfonsina Russo, director of the Colosseum Archaeological Park, told CNN:
This restoration is absolutely important for the archaeological research, because it enables us to reconstruct its history.
This was the backstage of the shows that went on in the area. [It is the location for] all the preparation, even the technology – they brought props, men and animals up into the area through a series of elevators and cargo lifts.
There are now further works planned for the Colosseum. Last month, the Italian Ministry of Culture announced that it intended to build a wooden arena that would cover the hypogea, giving an idea of how the structure used to be. This new area will also host events, but they’ll undoubtedly be less bloody than those of the past.
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