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Colosseum restoration starts with lean concerns

Rome's Colosseum might be leaning slightly but its stability is not in danger, said officials who announced this week that the ancient amphitheatre is about to undergo its first comprehensive restoration in 73 years.

An Italian newspaper reported last week that the Colosseum, famous for hosting bloody gladiator fights in the days of the Roman Empire, was about 40 centimetres lower on the south side than on the north, suggesting it was in danger.

The Italian media described it as the "leaning tower of Pisa effect."

"There is no problem with its stability," Mariarosaria Barbera, Rome's archeological superintendent, told a news conference.

"We are talking about a structure whose foundations are 13 metres deep.

Roman constructions do not only stand up to centuries, they stand up to millennia," she said.

"We are monitoring it but there is no Tower of Pisa effect," Barbera said at the unveiling of the 25-million-euro restoration project which will start in December and end in 2015.

The project, which had been delayed by three years of bureaucratic problems, will include the cleaning and restoration of the entire Colosseum, known in Roman times as the Flavian Amphitheatre.

It will be carried out in phases so that the Colosseum, which receives hundreds of thousands of visitors a year, will remain open. Only part of it will be covered by scaffolding at any one time.

"The monument is so big that there won't be too much inconvenience for visitors," Barbera said.

An underground visitors centre will be built under an adjacent piazza, freeing up more areas inside the monument, which are currently used as meeting points and ticket stalls.

Overall, 25 per cent more of the Colosseum will be open to visitors after the restoration.

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