ROME — The Colosseum has emerged more imposing than ever after its most extensive restoration, a multimillion-dollar cleaning to remove a dreary, undignified patina of soot and grime from the ancient arena, which has been assailed for decades by pollution in traffic-clogged Rome.
Footing the bill is shoe-and-luxury goods maker Tod’s. In an act of cultural patronage, company founder Diego Della Valle responded to a government call to the private sector to help Italy’s chronically anemic coffers to care for its immense art and archaeological treasures.
The first stage of the restoration — gently removing pollution’s ravages on the exterior of the monument, which dates from the 1st century, with water misters and brushes wielded by hand — was unveiled recently. The monument stayed open to tourists during the nearly 3-year-long restoration of the outside, with scaffolding covering only one section at a time.
The exterior cleaning cost some $7.2 million. Tod’s is paying $27.6 million for the entire project, whose next steps include constructing a visitors’ center with a cafeteria and shoring up the bottom, where wild beasts and scenery were kept for spectacles for the ancient Roman masses.
Architect Gisella Capponi, who directed the restoration, says the cleaning allows the Colosseum’s creamy hues of travertine stone to be appreciated again.
Besides Della Valle’s generosity, the Colosseum benefited from a city ordinance forbidding private cars on the nearby boulevard, which flanks Roman and Imperial Forums.