For the first time, visitors to the Colosseum in Rome can fully explore the underground tunnels and chambers where gladiators and wild animals once prepared for battle.
Spread over 15,000 square meters, the hypogeum of the 2,000-year-old monument is open to the public following the completion of a restoration project funded by Italian fashion house Tod’s.
Although people can descend into the hypogeum network – which sits under what used to be the amphitheater arena and was invisible to spectators in ancient times – since 2010, they could only enter a small section. Now there are walkways for visitors to explore the tunnels and chambers.
Alfonsina Russo, the director of the Colosseum, said the hypogeum, which was originally excavated in the 19th century, was the real “stage” of the amphitheater.
“Today we are returning a monument within a monument to the public,” Russo said. “What emerged [from the project] is that the hypogeum had a history of 400 years, from the opening of the amphitheater in 80 AD until the final show in 523. “
She said the 15 restored hallways told [of history] left over time ”.
More than 80 archaeologists, architects and engineers have been involved in the two-year project to “bring to the center of attention a monument the whole world loves,” said Diego Della Valle, President of Tod’s.
There was a lot of criticism when the Italian Minister of Culture, Dario Franceschini, announced several public-private partnerships for the renovation of monuments in Rome. The hypogeum restoration is the second part of a three-phase Colosseum project that began eight years ago and for which Tod’s has paid a total of € 25million (£ 21million).
The first phase focused on cleaning the facade of the Colosseum, and the last part, which is expected to be completed in 2024, will consist of restoring the galleries and the lighting system as well as adding a new visitor center. .
“It’s right to have full public-private collaboration,” Franceschini said. “The project is really important and shows how an Italian company, which exports all over the world, then reinvests in its country to protect its artistic and cultural heritage.
Other Italian brands that have paid for renovations to key monuments include Fendi, which restored the Trevi Fountain, and Bulgari, which restored the Spanish Steps.
Meanwhile, a project to restore the ground of the Colosseum to its former glory is expected to be completed in 2023. The new high-tech stage, which could host cultural events, will be able to quickly cover or uncover the underground networks, making it possible to protect from the rain or air.
In Roman times, crowds filled the Colosseum to watch gladiators defeat animals, including bears, tigers, elephants, and rhinos.