Phase Two is now complete and, from today, visitors are now able to walk through the 'heart' of the ancient fighting arena, where animals and men once awaited their fate.
A small section of the hypogeum, as it is known, was opened about a decade ago, but now visitors can access the entire area, nearly 2,000 years after the Colosseum was inaugurated by the Emperor Titus.
“This is the very heart of the Colosseum. You can imagine how dark it would have been down here, full of men and animals and the people who organised the spectacles in the arena. In many ways, this is the most interesting part of the Colosseum. It’s a monument within the monument,” said Alfonsina Russo, the director of the Colosseum.
Walkways extending more than 500ft through the bowels of the amphitheatre have been built which allow visitors to see where ramps once allowed props and scenery to be hauled up into the arena.
The opening up of the tunnels is the second of three stages of a €25 million restoration project that has been funded by Tod’s, the Italian shoe and accessory company. The first phase was an extensive cleaning of the Colosseum’s façade, while the third phase will concentrate on its second level of seating.
“This project shows that when the public and private sectors decide to do something, things get done,” said Diego Della Valle, the chairman of Tod’s.
The network of tunnels is for now open to the sky, but will be covered up once again if, as planned, an €18.5m wooden stage is built across the entire arena area.