Later this summer, visitors will have the first-ever chance to explore the depths below the Colosseum. These underground corridors and chambers once held lions, tigers, ostriches, and other animals, which were then hoisted by elevators up to the arena to the surprise of eager, rowdy crowds. Gladiators prepped for combat down there, too, and other underground sections stored water that was used to flood the Colosseum for mock naval battles.
A guide will lead small groups underground, where restorers have been working since January to clean the ancient columns and bricks, thanks to a much-needed influx of government funding. (A piece of plaster fell from one of the Colosseum galleries in May.) Barbara Nazzaro, the head architect, told ABC News that the underground tours will likely begin in August. See below for Nazzaro's two-minute video tour.
The 1st-century A.D. arena will also open a section of its third and highest remaining tier—seating reserved back in the day for middle-class Romans—which overlooks Palatine Hill, the Forum, and Piazza Venezia. Rounding out the experience, the exhibition Gladiatores, on view through October 3, displays artifacts and replicas of gladiator helmets and costumes, alongside information about their daily lives.
Like last summer, the Colosseum will stay open late on Tuesdays and Saturdays, from 9 p.m. to midnight, from June through mid-September. A €12 ($14.50) adult ticket covers admission to the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, and the Forum.