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Although there won’t be gladiators or wild animals, Italy’s government is working to -- somewhat -- restore the famed Colosseum in Rome to the way it was in ancient times.

As a recent BBC story explains, Italy’s government is currently accepting bids from engineers to rebuild the floor of the Colosseum. The project, which has a total budget of $22.5 million, stipulates that proposals to rebuild the Colosseum’s floor must be submitted by February 1. Work on the project is expected to be completed by 2023.

Built 2,000 years ago, and originally called the Flavian Amphitheatre, the Colosseum is one of Rome’s most well-known attractions. Indeed, more than six million people visit the Colosseum each year. The Colosseum was once large and well-outfitted enough to allow more than 50,000 people to watch everything from executions of prisoners to gladiator fights.

Current Condition

Today, the Colosseum has no floor, and visitors are able to look down at the underground network of tunnels. Known as the hypogeum, the labyrinth beneath the arena’s wooden, sand-covered floor included staging areas as well as systems of ramps, pulleys, ropes, and other mechanisms workers used to make prisoners and gladiators appear to suddenly emerge from underground, a Smithsonian Magazine article explains.

There was even an elevator used to lift caged animals such as lions and bears so they too could suddenly appear on the arena floor.

Building a new retractable floor “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 center of the arena,” Culture Minister Dario Franceschini said in a statement to BBC. A new floor will “allow the public to fully understand the use and function of this icon of the ancient world.”

The statement went on to explain that a key feature for the redesigned floor, as well as any trap doors or mechanical components, is that it can be closed quickly. That way, the underground areas can be protected from rain.

“We want to give an idea of how the Colosseum was,” Alfonsina Russo, the director of the Colosseum, told The Times.

Once the new infrastructure is complete, it will only be used for arts, however.

“The arena will be used for high culture, meaning concerts or theater,” Russo told The Times, “but no gladiator shows.”

Know Before You Go

The Roman Colosseum, like many other attractions in Italy, had been closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is now open again, but to limit contact and ensure social distancing, Colosseum tickets must be reserved online.

Furthermore, all visitors must wear masks that cover their noses and mouths while at the Colosseum. They also will all have their temperatures checked before they can enter the Colosseum. Anyone with a temperature higher than 99.5 degrees will not be permitted inside.

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