The Colosseum has always been one of Italy’s largest tourist draws, ushering in billions of travellers from across the world in non-pandemic times. And now, for the first time in history, visitors will have the chance to fully explore the network of underground tunnels, chambers and cages in which, back in the day, the gladiators and wild animals would wait, preparing for battle.
Before this, since 2010, visitors could only enter a small section of the hypogeum, which extends over 15,000 square metres.
The opening of the hypogeum or the ‘heart’ of the amphitheatre to the public comes after the completion of a €25m restoration project spearheaded by Italian fashion house Tod’s. More than 80 archaeologists, architects and engineers were a part of the project that commenced in 2018. The restoration and subsequent opening up of the hypogeum to the masses, mark the end of the second of three phases of the restoration project; the first being a clean-up of the Colosseum’s facade, and the third focusing on the restoration of galleries on the amphitheatre’s second level and the addition of a new visitor/service centre.
Hidden from the 50,000 bloodthirsty fans 2,000 years ago, the basement has been opened to visitors for the first time, offering a close-up look at the secret heart of the historic venuehttps://t.co/VJ6IiruOLY
— 🏛 Colosseo • Foro Romano • Palatino (@ParcoColosseo) June 28, 2021
Referring to the hypogeum as the “backstage” of the amphitheatre, Alfonsina Russo, the director of the Colosseum, mentioned that the area was originally excavated in the 19th century.
Speaking to The Guardian, she said: “Today we are returning to the public a monument within a monument… What emerged [from the project] is that the hypogeum had a 400-year-long history, from when the amphitheatre opened in AD80 to the final show in 523.”
Meanwhile, another project, this time to restore the floor of the Colosseum, is in the works and expected to be completed in 2023, with a vision to restore it to its former glory. This would also cover or uncover the networks and passages of the hypogeum, protecting them from rain and other impediments.
Sanjana Ray is that unwarranted tour guide people groan about on trips. When she isn't geeking out on travel and history, she can be found walking around the streets, crying for Bengali food. She is former Digital Writer at National Geographic Traveller India.