Rome’s Colosseum (Piazza del Colosseo, 06-399-67-700, admission $11) has experienced its share of conflict, what with gladiators dueling to the death and prisoners being thrown to the lions for the entertainment of the masses. But it seems the iconic 2,000–year–old arena is still capable of generating white–knuckle entertainment of a different kind, with controversy swirling around its upcoming two–and–a–half–year, $30 million renovation.
Last weekend an Italian newspaper reported that the Colosseum was leaning to its south side by as much as 16 inches. Of course, applying the word “leaning” to any structure other than that touristed tower in Tuscany is going to generate headlines, and the press immediately began referring to the phenomenon as, what else, “the leaning tower of Pisa effect.” Not so, declared Mariarosaria Barbera, Rome’s archaeological superintendent. “We are talking about a structure whose foundations are 13 meters deep. Roman constructions do not only stand up to centuries, they stand up to millennia,” she told a press conference, according to Reuters.
Whether the best–known site in Rome is in danger of toppling was especially relevant to reporters because Barbera was unveiling the renovation plan, the most ambitious of its kind for the structure in more than 70 years, which will begin in December and be completed in 2015. Bureaucracy delayed an official thumbs–up for the cleaning and restoration of the Colosseum for three years—I know, anyone familiar with governance Italian–style will be shocked—shocked to learn that this project has been less than efficiently executed. The renovation will happen in phases, so that the Colosseum can remain open to visitors throughout the process. Innovations will include an underground visitors center and the opening of more of the amphitheatre’s underground tunnels to the public. In all, the plan should open up 25 percent more of the structure to visitors.
Planning to see the Colosseum any time soon? Hotel Paba, less than a quarter–mile from the site, is smoke–free, air–conditioned, and offers free Wi–Fi and continental breakfast (266 Via Cavour, Rome, 877-662-6988, doubles from $92). Luzzi, a reliable pizza and pasta restaurant, is a little more than a half–mile from the Colosseum (88 Via di San Giovanni in Laterano, 06-709-6332, from $20).
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