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The Colosseum’s secret underground tunnels are open to the public for the first time

The Colosseum from Roman times hosted gladiatorial battles, naval battles, theatrical performances, and cruel public executions. Under the arena floors of the Colosseum, you will find a completely different world, and precisely the underground world is now open to the public for the first time.

The secret basement construction under the Colosseum, also called the “hypogeum”, was a kind of backstage for gladiators and slaves, where they could prepare for the battle that was to begin in a matter of minutes. Often a completely impossible battle with one or more wild animals to certain death. The wild animals were also kept in cages in these basement tunnels and shut out through hatches in the floor structures.

Crowds gathered to watch gladiators fight against the animals or each other. The last battles fought were in the fifth century AD.

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Experience the bloody past of the Colosseum up close.

From 80 AD until the last show in 523 AD. the public was forbidden to enter below the arena level. So in 2010, they had a chance to look down into the underground when a small section was opened.

But now a major restoration project, starting in 2018, has peeled off the layers so visitors can explore some of the original tunnels that cross the arena through a new bridge.

They can explore the tunnels, see the lift shafts that hoisted animals and humans up from the depths to meet a bloodthirsty crowd, and learn more about the 2000-year-old monument in its bloody details.

The underground area opened on July 26 and can be experienced with the Full Experience Colosseum ticket.

Precisely this opening marks the second phase of the ongoing restoration project funded by Italian shoemaker Tods. The first phase involved a clean-up of the Colosseum’s façade, and the last part will restore the galleries, install a new lighting system and introduce a new visitor center in 2024.

The arena floor of the Colosseum is being rebuilt

The arena will again be open to concerts and theater productions, but some believe that the Colosseum should remain closed to such initiatives in light of its violent past. Photo; Milan Ingegneria.

Another restoration project, which is taking place in parallel around the Colosseum, is in the process of building a new 3,000 square meter retractable floor. This project is funded by the Italian company, Milan Ingegneria. The retractable floor will allow visitors to walk through Italy’s biggest tourist attraction for the first time since the late 1800s.

The original wood-covered sand floor was removed when archaeologists began excavating the underground levels of the arena and a new high-tech floor was installed på replaces it. It was made of stainless steel and covered with Accoya wood, also it can be retracted and used in various configurations with remote control. The goal is to make it possible to quickly cover or uncover the newly opened underground so it can be protected from rain or vented out if required.

The floor is also reversible and can be removed if the plans for the Colosseum change in the future. The arena floor makes it possible to hold events in the ancient amphitheater, such as theater performances and concerts.

“It will be a major technological intervention that will allow visitors to not only see the underground spaces but also appreciate the beauty of the Colosseum while standing in the middle of the arena,” these words were spoken by Culture Minister Dario Franceschini about the project.

The floor is expected to be completed in 2023.