Colosseum underground labyrinth opens fully to visitors

Colosseum hypogeum restored in major project financed by Tod's.

The underground heart of Rome’s Colosseum, a labyrinth of passageways and chambers called the hypogeum, has opened to the public fully following an extensive restoration funded by Italian luxury shoe group Tod's.

The subterranean ruins once housed gladiators, prisoners and wild animals in cages, before they were hoisted overground for combat on the arena floor in front of tens of thousands of spectators baying for blood.

The restoration, described as "very complex" by Colosseum archaeological park director Alfonsina Russo, is part of a €25 million project, financed by Tod's, to restore the ancient amphitheatre.

"We finally are returning to the public this monument within the monument" - Russo told reporters on Friday afternoon - underlining that the hypogeum "testifies to everything that happened under the great arena of the amphitheatre, from its inauguration in 80 AD until the last show in 523."

The restoration work in the hypogeum - described by Russo as the Colosseum's "backstage" - was carried out over a period of "7,000 days" by more than 80 specialists including architects, engineers and geologists.

Although the underground area has been opened partially to visitors for the last decade, this is the first time that the public will have full access to the hypogeum, visitable courtesy of a 160-m winding walkway.

Italy's culture minister Dario Franceschini commended the "true act of patronage" by the Tod's group whose CEO Diego Della Valle appealed to other entrepreneurs to finance restoration projects, saying: "It is no longer the time to ask what the government can do for us, but what we can do for others."

The restored hypogeum is the second phase of a three-part project which began with the cleaning of the Colosseum’s façade - completed in 2016 - and set to conclude with the restoration of the galleries and addition of a new visitor centre in 2024.

The opening of the hypogeum comes the month after the culture ministry unveiled plans to build a new retractable arena floor, within the next two years, which will be able to cover or uncover the underground area at the flick of a switch.

 

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Address Piazza del Colosseo, 1, 00184 Roma RM, Italy

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Colosseum underground labyrinth opens fully to visitors

Piazza del Colosseo, 1, 00184 Roma RM, Italy