Colosseum opens top tiers to the public after 40 years

Photo by Konrad van Halewyn

ROME– A press conference was held Tuesday in advance of the partial opening of the fourth and fifth levels of the Colosseum after more than 40 years of closure. Members of the press were led up through the dimly lit gallery on to the forth level overlooking the forum, Garibaldi’s Arch shining white above the Roman forum.

 This is the third major restoration of these tiers, the first occurring after a fire during the reign of Emperor Severi, the second occurring in the 1850s by Luigi Canina, the famed-Italian architect behind Ville Borghese.

 “You have to think about the context to the restoration under Luigi Canina: the Roman Republic had just been founded, Garibaldi fighting off the French siege of the city, and Canina, a talented architect, restoring this to the original Roman plans,” Barbara Nazzaro told me emphatically, a glint in her eye, as we turned from the panoramic views of the highest tier to look at the meeting of Canina and Severi on the face of the inner wall. Canina’s restoration was in order to prevent the collapse of the structure, and as they say:

 “While stands the Coliseum, Rome shall stand;      

  When falls the Coliseum, Rome shall fall; 

  And when Rome falls—the World.”

 A flurry of excitement erupted on the terrace which was seconds before calm and placid, far above the rivers of tourists on the lower levels forming eddies of guided tours. Minister of Culture, Dario Franceschini, swaggered out, cameramen tripping over themselves in the narrow plebeian passages of these highest tiers. He leaned against the iron railings, expressed his excitement and pride, and left.

 The crowd slowly dissipated, I asked Barbara Nazzaro if she would kindly show me any Roman graffiti, she knew just the place. Along with Sonia Lanzillotti, the woman responsible for this excellent restoration, we descended through the tunnel into the gallery. The breeze rolled under the dark, low, ceilings. “This is the oldest, preserved gallery we have” they told me proudly. “And look here, we have the marking of a builder, a palm leaf. It’s like a signature so they know who constructed this section.” We walked under an arch, overlooking the interior of the building, the tourists shrunk to figurines on the stage. “I Vino?!” I said excitedly, “his name was wine?” “No, no, I don’t know the Latin word for wine, do you?” she asked Sonia, she shook her head, “Well it isn’t vino.” We looked out over the Colosseum from the dark arch, the black graffiti, Marks and Susans from the 70s, on top of the still red scrawls of the Romans.

0ct 4-31: Ordinary tours to the underground and arena will be added to the IV and V tiers upon request of advance booking.

Nov 1 onwards: IV and V tiers will be part of the ordinary tour selections for an additional cost of 9 euros.


Photo by Konrad van Halewyn