Rome's Colosseum has long been a ruin. A masterful ruin, imposing in stature and significance, but a crumbling one at that. Enter Italian fashion brand Tod's, which, together with Rome's Archaeological Heritage Department, has undertaken a colossal restoration project to return the landmark to its former glory.
The first phase of the works – which began in 2011 – have now been completed, focusing on the northern and southern façades, cleaning up a total of 13,300 sq m, including 31 arches and replacing the current arch enclosure system with brand new gates. All whilst remaining open to the public.
Next, the restoration will focus on the underground vaults and passageways – the old haunts of animals and gladiators as they awaited their entrance to the arena – as well as a service centre for visitors. This 'utility system' will allow visitors to access this historic space from the outer area of the Colosseum, rather than from within the walls of the site as it currently stands.
Restoration is slow, delicate work. Starting with a photographic survey and mapping of surfaces, a delicate hydraulic nebulous spray was employed to wash away years of dirt, deposits and growing microorganisms like algae and lichen. The loosened detritus was then brushed off and old interventions chipped away, before being replaced with more authentic, sensitive and true materials. New pointing finished off the process, aiming to reduce the infiltration of water into the stonework.
It seems such historic facelifts are rather in fashion. Tod's is the latest brand to pledge funds to similar projects in Italy; Prada and Versace teamed up to renovate Milan's Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, and Fendi pledged €2.5 million to restore fountains in Rome, including the famous Trevi Fountain just last year.
At the official unveiling of the restoration work, hosted over the weekend for a group of VIP guests, a special performance by the Accademia Teatro alla Scala, featuring tenor Fabio Sartori and soprano Federica Lombardi, conducted by legendary orchestra director Zubin Mehta, filled the iconic landmark. An al fresco dinner followed, as the sun set and tricolore lights shone brighter.