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Critics on Colosseum Overhaul: 'Italy Seen Via Las Vegas'

High-tech $18M stage will cover up structure's subterranean chambers, offering a 'gladiator's view'
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted May 3, 2021 9:30 AM CDT

(Newser) – If you're one of the millions who've converged upon the Colosseum in Rome, your past visits likely included wandering around the seating area and the underground chambers. In a couple of years, tourists there will have the chance to participate in a new activity: taking in the structure from a gladiator's point of view, thanks to the high-tech stage that's being built to cover up the subterranean levels. The AP reports that the winning design for the $18 million project, announced by Italy's Culture Ministry on Sunday, will feature a lightweight retractable floor that can be pulled back to air out the underground chambers, then put back in place to protect them from rain. Latticed wooden slats will allow for air circulation when the floor is in place, per the New York Times. Not everyone, however, is pleased with the planned 32,300-square-foot stage, designed by a Milan engineering firm, per the Local.

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"Monuments are not things to be filled," one art historian tells the Times. "It's all very ridiculous, it's Italy seen via Las Vegas." Those willing to overlook such criticism and venture to Rome to check out the redesign in 2023, when the floor is expected to be complete, will be able to stand in the middle of the arena, offering them a view akin to what gladiators may have seen as they headed out to entertain the crowds, per the Local. "Reconnecting the thread of time, we are finally returning to the public the same view that people had from the stage of the monument during antiquity," Alfonsina Russo, the Colosseum's director, said Sunday during a presser. The original stage was removed in the 1800s so archaeological digs could be carried out. Another benefit of the coming innovation, at least in the eyes of those aforementioned critics: The floor is reversible, meaning it can be removed if it's ever deemed necessary. (Read more Colosseum stories.)

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