Italy's Colosseum to be restored with private donation

A worker rides on a boom lift as he inspects the Colosseum, 31 July
Image caption The Colosseum is one of the most recognisable monuments in Europe

The Italian authorities have approved a controversial plan to restore the Colosseum using a private donation, with work to begin in December.

Luxury shoemaker Tod's is providing 25m euros (£20m; $31m) for the work, which will last two and half years.

The site, one of Italy's top landmarks, will remain open to visitors.

There has long been concern that the ruin is being damaged by vibrations and pollution, and in the past few days it emerged that it was tilting.

Italy's cash-strapped authorities are increasingly turning to private sponsors despite concerns that they might exploit their association with the country's great monuments commercially.

Built 2,000 years ago, the Colosseum was the biggest amphitheatre built in the Roman Empire, and hosted gladiatorial fights and other public entertainments.

The number of visitors has increased from a million to around six million a year over the past decade thanks mainly to the Hollywood film Gladiator. AFP news agency reports.

New visitor centre

Speaking at a news conference, Rome's superintendent for archaeological heritage, Mariarosaria Barbera, said that the restoration would make 25% more of the Colosseum accessible to visitors in the future.

The building will be cleaned and restorers will also repair cracks and remove temporary metal arches installed on the ground level.

A new visitor centre will also be built outside the ruin.

Italian daily Corriere della Sera reported on Sunday that the Colosseum was slanting about 40cm (16in) lower on the south side than on the north.

However, Rossella Rea, the director of the Colosseum site, told BBC News that this was not a major problem.

"It's a small area that now we will keep under constant observation to understand whether this is an antique phenomenon that is stopped now or if it's still happening," she said.

Asked how the ruin would look after restoration, she said it would be returned to its original colour, a "white ochre".

"And then tourists will be able to move freely around new areas, which will be empty and devoid of structures like ticket offices, toilets, bookshop, that will all be placed in the services centre outside the monument," she added.

The founder of Tod's, Diego Della Valle, urged his entrepreneur friends to help restore decaying Italian monuments. "Tod's is proud to support this project and to help preserve one of the symbols of Italy in the world," he told reporters.

Ms Rea said that "lots of prejudices" remained but she agreed with Mr Della Valle "when he talks about the need for a close relationship between public and private sector, that can afford to give back funds to culture in Italy".

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