Italy’s culture minister has set the stage for events to take place within the walls of the Colosseum, as the ancient amphitheatre undergoes a fresh phase of restoration work.
“When the arena’s completed, this place will be even more beautiful. It will be great for the tourists who will be able to see the Colosseum from the centre of the arena,” said Dario Franceschini.
“It will be great to have the possibility to do cultural events of the highest level. Of course we won’t do football matches.”
Franceschini was speaking at an event to celebrate the first complete cleanup of the Colosseum walls, a project that saw scaffolding put up for more than two years as restorers scrubbed away with brushes and water.
The archaeologists have since moved inside and will restore the passages and underground vaults, while a new visitor centre will be moved outside the amphitheatre.
Ahead of work beginning on the new arena, there has been widespread speculation as to the type of events that could be hosted by the Colosseum, which in Roman times was capable of holding up to 80,000 spectators who would gather to watch public spectacles and gladiatorial contests.
The location has been proposed as a venue for athlete parades and medal ceremonies as part of Rome’s possible 2024 Olympic bid, although the city’s new mayor, Virginia Raggi, has dampened such dreams by saying staging the Games is not a priority for citizens.
The nearby Circus Maximus, Rome’s ancient chariot racing ground, was hired by the Rolling Stones in 2014 and later this month will host Bruce Springsteen. While Franceschini did not detail the type of events to be allowed at the Colosseum, his approach suggested theatrical performances would be more likely than rock concerts.
“It’s possible to do events of a high level, of high quality,” he said, speaking from the wooden stage that partially covers the underground tunnels of the amphitheatre.
He was joined by Italy’s prime minister, Matteo Renzi, who called for an end to criticism of the way the country handles its vast cultural heritage. “The time of complaining that there’s no money for culture is over … The money and resources to restore the extraordinary heritage is there,” he said.
Renzi’s government last month boosted the culture budget by €1bn (£840m), while business owners have been offered tax breaks if they help boost the state coffers.
The Colosseum restoration has been funded to the tune of €25m by the billionaire Diego Della Valle, owner of the luxury brand Tod’s. Franceschini said on Friday the state would contribute €18m. Della Valle attended the event on Friday and was seated next to the prime minister, while a group of Tod’s shoemakers were presented alongside a team of restorers.
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