A new retractable floor will be built at the Colosseum in RomeAndrea Smith

Rome‘s famed Colosseum will get a new 3000-square-meter retractable floor that will allow visitors to walk across Italy’s top visitor attraction for the first time since the late 1800s.

When it was inaugurated in AD 80, tiered seating encircled the 50,000-seat Colosseum, which had a wooden, sand-covered floor. It was built over an underground complex where wild animals were caged and stage sets prepared. Crowds gathered to watch gladiators fighting the animals or each other, and the last battles were fought there in the fifth century AD. The floor was removed when archaeologists began to excavate the subterranean levels of the arena.

Without a floor, a labyrinth of secret tunnels, or ‘hypogeum,’ has been on view to visitors for more than a century. The new high-tech floor will be made from stainless steel and covered with Accoya wood. It will be retractable and can be used in different configurations, which can be managed remotely. The aim is that it will be possible to quickly cover or uncover the underground networks below, allowing them to be protected from the rain or aired out, if required.

The Colosseum will have a new retractable floor © Marco Rubino / Shutterstock

The floor is also reversible, so it can be removed if plans for the Colosseum change in the future. Having a floor opens up the possibility of events being held at the ancient amphitheater, such as theater productions and concerts. “It will be a major technological intervention that will offer visitors the opportunity to, not only see the underground rooms, but also appreciate the beauty of the Colosseum while standing in the centre of the arena,” says culture minister, Dario Franceschini.

The floor is expected to be completed by 2023, and Italian firm, Milan Ingegneria, will carry out the €18.5m ($22.5m) reconstruction project.

This article was first published on January 4, and updated on May 4, 2021. 

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