Visitors to Rome’s ancient Colosseum will soon get a chance to stand in the arena where gladiators once fought.
The Italian government on Sunday announced plans to build a new floor for the Colosseum that will completed by 2023. Culture Minister Dario Franceschini said this restoration will allow visitors "to see the majesty of the monument" from its centre.
Milan Ingegneria, an engineering and architecture firm, won the €18.5m ($22.3) contract to develop and install a retractable wooden floor, which will be constructed within the next two years.
“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,” Franceschini said.
He also spoke of the possibility of holding events in the amphitheatre once the project is complete.
During the Roman empire, the arena had a wooden floor covered with sand and was the site where gladiators would battle against each other or animals. Beneath it was a network of corridors and rooms where the fighters waited before facing the crowd.
Made of stone, the monumental structure – Italy's most popular tourist attraction, bringing in 7.6 million visitors in 2019 – had up to 70,000 seats during its glory days.
Completed in 80, the Colosseum witnessed gladiator battles until 508 and underwent various transformations over the centuries. In the late 1800s, the floor was removed in order for archaeologists to study the labyrinth of tunnels underneath. The underground area reopened to visitors in 2010, but the floor was never replaced.
For this latest project, the firm will develop a high-tech stage that can be retracted to cover or uncover the Colosseum's subterranean chambers, providing additional protection from rain and allowing better ventilation.
The floor will be made up of wooden slats that can be turned to let in natural light to the area below.