Nick Squires, The Daily Telegraph, November 21, 2014
Two millennia after sword-wielding gladiators fought to the death on the blood-soaked sands of the Colosseum, Italy's culture minister has given the green light to cultural events to once again be held within the arena.
Dario Franceschini has thrown his weight behind a proposal to rebuild the wooden floor that once covered the arena and provided the setting for wild animal hunts and gladiatorial combat.
Currently only a small portion of the arena is covered by wooden boards, with the rest exposed to the elements – visitors are able to peer into the labyrinth of narrow tunnels and cramped stone cells that once housed caged animals and gladiators before they emerged into the arena via a network of lifts operated by slaves.
There are no plans to recreate mock gladiatorial battles or fights with lions, leopards and bears.
The minister said that only concerts and other cultural events would be held, insisting that ancient Rome’s monuments should not be turned into a cultural Disneyland.
Occasional concerts are held inside the Colosseum but the rebuilding of the arena’s wooden flooring would allow more frequent events.
“I’m convinced that with the intelligent reconstruction of the arena in the Colosseum, the monument that is a symbol of Italy could become even more attractive to tourism,” Mr Franceschini said at a press conference in Rome on Friday.
He knocked down previous suggestions that football matches could be held in the ancient arena.
Instead there would be classical music concerts and plays. “We’re not going to be hosting a match between Roma and Bayern Munich,” he said.
It was a project that would require “resources and vision”.
“It’s not something that you can do in two minutes. But the debate is open and it’s going to be very interesting,” he said.
Italy could increase tourism by “adding value” to its unparalleled cultural heritage, he said.
Ancient monuments needed to be “brought alive” for visitors from around the world.
The idea of restoring the arena was first mooted during the summer by an archaeologist, Daniele Manacorda, from Roma Tre university.
Some cultural heritage experts have criticised the idea, saying it would cheapen the monument and could damage its stone structure, which has survived earthquakes, pilfering of its stone for other buildings and traffic pollution.
But many of Italy’s other ancient monuments are used for concerts and opera performances, including the Baths of Caracalla in Rome and Verona’s Roman amphitheatre.
This article was written by Nick Squires Rome from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.