Italy turns to private sector to help Colosseum

Wed Jul 28, 2010 11:18am EDT
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By Ella Ide

ROME (Reuters Life!) - As Rome's ancient Colosseum literally crumbles from neglect, the cash-strapped Italian government is looking for private sponsors willing to help pay for restoration work in exchange for advertising rights.

The vast Roman amphitheatre which housed bloody public spectacles including gladiator fights, mock sea battles and animal shows is one of the most famous monuments from the ancient world.

But it has suffered badly in recent years and only 35 percent of the structure is now open to the public.

The urgency surrounding the state of the Italian capital's archaeological treasure was highlighted in May after chunks of mortar plunged through a protective netting.

A string of collapses at the nearby forum have also raised fears about visitor safety and whether the buildings can remain standing for much longer.

However the dire state of public finances in Italy, one of the most heavily indebted countries in Europe, means that funds are short and the government is having to turn to private investors to plug the 25 million euro ($32 million) gap.

"It's a remarkable experiment," said Francesco Giro, the undersecretary for Italy's heritage ministry, which is running the tender with Rome's city council.

"If all goes to plan, by 2013 the Colosseum will have been cleaned from top to bottom but even more important, it will be fully accessible to visitors," he said.   Continued...

<p>Tourists use umbrellas to shade themselves from the sun as they visit Rome's ancient Colosseum during a hot summer day in Rome July 21, 2010. REUTERS/Alessia Pierdomenico (</p>