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New Experiences at Rome's Colosseum

Discover What Italy is Doing to Enhance Your Experience at the Roman Colosseum

The Italian government has awarded a contract to a Milan-based firm to build a retractable high-tech floor that will restore the Colosseum to its gladiator glory. For this project, the floor needs to cover and protect the subterranean rooms, service corridors, and lift shafts that allowed gladiators, animals, and scenery to appear on the floor of the Colosseum through trap doors. The floor is expected to be completed by 2023. Interestingly, the floor is being designed to be completely removable without leaving any permanent damage to the site.

Culture minister, Dario Franceschini tweeted out a graphic showing an artist's impression of the new floor.
Culture minister, Dario Franceschini, tweeted out a graphic showing an artist’s impression of the new floor.

The design will consist of the installation of thousands of wooden slats that can be rotated to allow light and air into the underground chambers to control humidity. With the completion of the floor, visitors will once again be able to walk to the center of the Colosseum seeing it the same way that the ancient gladiators saw it when they fought there. Parts of the floor will retract to reveal the structures below and to allow the surface to be used in creative ways. Visitors will be able to walk both under the arena and out to its center, creating a new visitor experience.

At the present time, the Colosseum, which dates to the Flavian dynasty of the first century has no floor. Archeologists removed it in the 19th century exposing a network of structures, secret passageways, and tunnels where animals and gladiators were held before the Roman blood sports began. For over 100 years, these underground structures have remained exposed allowing visitors to view them up close. 

The Colosseum with the underground complex exposed.
The Colosseum with the underground complex exposed.

The exposed underground complex is a feat of ancient engineering that hoisted lions, leopards, and other wild animals to the arena floor as if by magic. This technique of using hoists added to the suspense of the games because gladiators in the arena as well as spectators in the stands never knew the direction that wild animals would come from.

The Colosseum, one of the most recognizable structures of the ancient world is the most visited site in Rome. The organization responsible for the monument has just announced that the floor will allow the site to host cultural events when the floor is complete. As the Colosseum was originally designed to host events and spectacles, it is exciting that in the 21st century it will fulfill this function once again, entertaining visitors from near and far.