A project to build a new lightweight floor inside the Roman Colosseum to allow visitors to stand where gladiators once fought has been approved.
Italy's Culture Minister Dario Franceschini said on Sunday that the new high-tech stage will enable visitors "to see the majesty of the monument."
"It's another step towards the reconstruction of the arena, an ambitious project that will help the preservation and protection of the archaeological structures by recovering the original image of the Colosseum and also giving it back its nature as a complex scenic machine," he added.
The wooden retractable floor will cost €18.5 million to build and install and should be completed by 2023.
The stage was original to the first-century amphitheatre and existed until the 1800s when it was removed for archaeological digs on the subterranean levels of the ancient structure, Franceschini said.
The retractable floor will allow to quickly cover and uncover the underground structures to let through natural lighting and protect them from rain.
New mechanical ventilation units will control the temperature and humidity of the underground structures while a water collection system will reduce the water load and divert it for use in the monument's public toilets.
The project is reversible, meaning it can be removed if plans for the Colosseum change in the future, and should permit the staging of cultural events that are respectful of the Colosseum as a symbol of Italy, Franceschini said.
The Colosseum reopened to the public last week after a 41-day closure because of rolling pandemic restrictions. Officials have set up a one-way itinerary as part of safety measures, and visitors are limited to 1,260 a day, compared with as many as 25,000 a day in 2019, pre-pandemic.