The evolution of the great Colosseum in Rome is constantly evolving. Nearly 2,000 years later, the same tunnels walked by these warriors are now open to the public.

With the opening of the tunnels, which took place in June 2021, Italy is trying to steer tourism in the right direction. And, amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the Colosseum is a great bucket list destination — especially for those forced to cancel vacation plans due to the pandemic.

For the first time, visitors to the Colosseum have the chance to experience the real “behind the scenes” of the arena where “exotic animals and gladiators suddenly appeared in the dust of the stage, through hidden trapdoors”, says Coop Culture.

The system of tunnels is known as the hypogeum or subterranean chamber, and it was named the real “behind the scenes” of the amphitheater by Colosseum director Alfonsina Russo, according to The Guardian. It is one of the biggest expansion efforts as part of the Colosseum’s multimillion-dollar renovation by Italian fashion house Tod.

On the newly opened Gladiator Tunnels Tour, guests will enjoy a fully guided tour of the Colosseum, from the backstage Hypogeum to the magnificent view of the Valadier Terrace. Explore the inner workings of where warriors once fought giant animals. See what these places look like now and “have areas almost or completely to yourself in a monument that receives more than 6 million visitors a year”, according to What A Life Tours.

The Colosseum has since become a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and it’s constantly changing.

The opening of the tunnels last June is just part of the restoration project which should complete its final phase by 2024 with the restoration of the “galleries and the lighting system as well as the addition of a new reception centre”, according to The Guardian.

Restoration efforts plan to add an all-new arena floor by 2023 and clean up the facade of the Colosseum. Still holding the title of the largest amphitheater in the world, the iconic Roman structure soon returns to its original use, giving people a modern sense of what life was like centuries ago.

But with change comes criticism.

“There was a lot of criticism when the Italian Minister of Culture, Dario Franceschini, announced several public-private partnerships for the renovation of Rome’s monuments,” writes Angela Giuffrida for The Guardian. “The restoration of the hypogeum is the second part of a three-phase project on the Colosseum which began 8 years ago.”

Franceschini and the Italian government have recently come under fire for handling an auctioned Roman villa that houses Caravaggio’s only mural. While he said that “it’s right to have full public-private collaboration”, Franceschini believes in Tod’s efforts to give back to the Italian country with his restoration project.

However, he still faces criticism; which is well justified because of the pride that Italy has in its national monuments.

“As long as the Colosseum remains, Rome will remain; when the Colosseum falls, Rome will fall; when Rome falls, the whole world will fall. — The Venerable Bede

The Colosseum was built in the center of Rome, housing the history of the great Roman Empire. While several empires before and after him fell, the Colosseum still stands today. And thanks to the restoration effort of over 10 years, today’s humans can experience the Italian wonder like no one else in the world has done before.

For more information on exploring the newly opened Hypogeum, check ticket availability here.

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