Your visit to Rome’s world-famous Colosseum is about to get even more spectacular: the underground section, where gladiators waited and wild animals were kept before being lifted up to the arena, has been fully reopened to the public, after a two-year complex renovation work.
While a part of the Colosseum’s underground spaces, also known as hypogeum, were already accessible to the public (although not part of the regular ticket), a whole new section that includes a walkway 160 meters (530 feet) long is now open. It will allow visitors to see some of what were originally 15 corridors that made up the underground levels, and also to picture this enormous backstage, with the mobile platforms and wooden elevators that were used to pull up to stage gladiators and animals.
“This startling new view of the hypogeum is testimony to all that happened under the amphitheater's great arena from its inauguration in 80 AD up to the last spectacle in 523 AD,” said Colosseum director Alfonsina Russo. “It is a monument inside the monument, now viewable on a 160-meter snaking walkway.”
A team of 80 among engineers, surveyors, construction workers, architects, and archaeologists worked on the renovation.
During the centuries when the Colosseum was in use, spectators were forbidden from venturing below stage level. The area, once covered by a wooden floor, was dark and smelly and served as the amphitheater’s backstage.
The announcement relating to the Colosseum’s new underground level was made by Italy’s Culture Minister Dario Franceschini at the end of June. Businessman Diego della Valle, the founder of luxury shoe company Tod’s, was present; he financed this restoration as well as a previous multi-million euro restoration that cleaned centuries of dirt from the monument’s surfaces.
Recently, Culture Minister Dario Franceschini also announced a controversial project to build a lightweight retractable arena floor in the Colosseum.