Colosseum to get back its floor glory


Rome Colosseum will get new floor Image: Dario Franceschini & BBC

The Italian Government has greenlighted a plan to furnish Rome’s ancient Colosseum with a new floor, giving visitors the chance to stand where gladiators once fought (in ancient Rome a man trained to fight with weapons against other men or wild animals in an arena). It will allow visitors see the ancient amphitheater from a gladiator’s vantage point for the first time in two centuries.

‘BBC’ stated that the Minister of Cultural Heritage, Activities and Tourism, Dario Franceschini, announced the project to build the wooden, retractable floor recently.

The Colosseum is an oval amphitheater in the center of the City of Rome, Italy, just East of the Roman Forum and is the largest ancient amphitheater ever built, and is still the largest standing amphitheater in the world today, despite getting worn out.

‘BBC’ further stated that the Italian engineering firm Milan Ingegneria won the 18.5m euro (£16.1m; $22.2m) contract to design the floor. The floor is expected to be finished by 2023.

At present, the 2,000-year-old monument has no floor. It was removed by archaeologists in the 19th century, exposing the underground network of tunnels where gladiators and animals were held before the Roman blood sports began.

Franceschini stated that the “extraordinary” new floor would allow visitors to “see the majesty of the Colosseum” from its center.

Added Francheschini, “It’s another step forward toward rebuilding the arena, an ambitious project that will aid the conservation of the archaeological structures while getting back to the original image of the Colosseum.”

The Minister informed that cultural events could be held in the Colosseum once the floor got back its pristine sheen.

Milan Ingegneria was one of 10 competitors who responded to the Italian Government’s 2020 call for bids to design a new floor for the Colosseum.

The winning design involves setting up hundreds of wooden slats that can be rotated to allow natural light and air into the underground chambers.

Italy’s Culture Ministry said the new 3,000-sq-m (32,300-sq-ft) floor would be entirely reversible should plans for a new design be made in the future.

The Colosseum was the biggest amphitheater in the Roman Empire. Gladiatorial fights and other public spectacles were hosted in front of crowds of at least 50,000 people.

While COVID-19 – which has had a disastrous effect on Italy – has limited tourism to a great extent, the Colosseum still towers over Italy’s skyline. In a pre-COVID world, the monument attracted about 7.6 million people in 2019.

‘AP’ stated that the mobile system will be able to quickly cover or uncover the underground structures below, to both protect them from rain and allow them to be aired out.

The ‘AP’ further stated that the Colosseum reopened to the public last week after a 41-day closure because of rolling pandemic restrictions. Officials have set up a one-way itinerary as part of safety measures, and visitors are limited to 1,260 a day, compared with as many as 25,000 a day in 2019, pre-pandemic.

‘NPR’ quoted Franceschini as stating, “You will be able to walk on it and go to the center of the Colosseum, seeing it in the same way as visitors used to up to the end of the 19th century.”

The top of the floor will be made of sustainable Accoya wood and will consist of slats that can be rotated to allow natural light into the area below and shield the underground structures from rain.

‘NPR’ further stated that a mechanical ventilation system will control the temperature and humidity of the below-ground structures, while a rainwater collection and recovery apparatus will reduce the water load and divert it to the monument’s public bathrooms.

Alfonsina Russo, Colosseum Director, informed, “The complex underground system under the wooden pavement, thanks to hatches, hoists and mobile types of machinery, allowed men, beasts and props to be brought up to the arena floor.”

The Colosseum has served a variety of purposes over the centuries, it has at times been a quarry for building materials, a shelter for animals and an archaeological excavation site.

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