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Restoration of the Colosseum

The Colosseum’s restoration

The Colosseum is close to being 2,000 years old and feels its age. Begun in 72 AD, the Colosseum or Flavian Amphitheatre, is considered to be one of the greatest works of Roman architecture and engineering. Capable of seating 50,000 spectators, it was used for gladiatorial contests, mock sea battles, executions and re-enactments of mythological dramas.

The need for a restoration of the symbol of the city of Rome and the Roman era has been debated for the last 30 years but because of economical problems it never started.

 The mayor of Rome, Gianni Alemanno found it impossible to make use of public resources to preserve the Colosseum so he opened the door to private investors.

 The association “Friends of the Colosseum”, a consortium led by shoe magnate Diego Della Valle, CEO of Tod’s, entered into negotiations with the City of Rome and the Ministry of Cultural Heritage (MiBac), offering 25 million Euro to support the restoration of the monument.

 The 25-million-euro project, which will take 24-36 months to complete, involves restoring the north and south sides and the underground areas, and building a 1,600-square-meter reception area with a bookshop. This will also increase the area of the monument the public can visit by 25%.

Della Valle and his partners have requested and obtained from MiBac and the City council, a large gain on the capital invested in the restoration, such as the right to exploit, in Italy and abroad, the logo of the Colosseum exclusively for the next 15 years from the first day of work.

Although Della Valle encouraged the entrepreneurs involved in the project to give back a portion of their profits to the public, the restoration project has raised many polemics. First of all, according to part of the public opinion, because the Colosseum is humanity’s heritage, single individuals shouldn’t be allowed to make private profit from it.   

Moreover, there have been some doubts about the correctness of the competition for the award of the private investment, which have slowed down the restructuring operations foreseen for September and now postponed to spring 2012.

Ari (Associazione Restauratori Italiani) has always criticized the project. In an open letter to Roberto Cecchi, Secretary for Cultural Heritage, the association of the main restoration companies has asked to stop everything because instead of restorers, builders might be in charge of some of the operations.

According to the call for tender issued by the Commissioner of the archaeological Rome, Roberto Cecchi, neo-Secretary for Cultural Heritage, the restoration of archaeological monuments should not be the responsibility of building companies but of restoration specialists.  

 Already in February the Ari (the Association of Italian restorers) had reported that seven million of the total 25 available from Della Valle for the restoration of the Coliseum, only one million has been put aside for the restoration of the decorative parts, including cleaning of scale, elimination of vegetation and limestone. Now the money for the actual restoration would increase to four million.

The other criticized point of the project was that Cecchi asked the companies to submit executive plans within 30 days instead of the usual 60. According to Ari “such a hurry penalizes especially small groups of restorers”.

There should be more reflection on the Colosseum restoration. The monument is too important to be left in the hands of ordinary masonries.

Giulia Lombardo

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