'Cowboy builders' blamed for Rome's crumbling Colosseum



An ambitious attempt to save Rome's Colosseum from collapse is being undermined by the authorities' cost-cutting decision to employ ordinary builders rather than specialists to perform the delicate overhaul, restoration experts have claimed.

The precarious state of the landmark, built in AD80, was underlined last year when three large chunks fell off. Discoloured by pollution from Rome's constant traffic and rocked by vibrations from a nearby metro line, the amphitheatre was desperately in need of renovation – and the funding to pay for it.

Italian shoe magnate Diego Della Valle of Tod's luxury leather goods stepped up in January this year to foot the €25m (£21.4m) restoration bill, in exchange for advertising rights at the site which attracts millions of tourists a year. The three-year facelift and restructuring is due to begin at the end of this month.

But this week, Carla Tomasi, president of the Rome-based Restorers Association of Italy, called on the government to stop the work or risk causing "irreparable damage'' to amphitheatre.

According to the trade group, a government official charged with overseeing work on Rome's archaeological sites two years ago changed contract bidding rules, in the process largely squeezing out art and archaeology restoration firms in favour of cheaper, large-scale building contracting firms that have less specialist knowledge.

In an open letter to Italy's new culture minister Lorenzo Onarghi, the restorers group called on him to stop the bidding or "to prevent irreparable damage to Italy's most celebrated monument and consequently damaging the image of our country".

This is not the first time the ARI has slated the renovation plans. Last February it complained that an insufficient proportion of the €25m was being made available for reconditioning the Colosseum's decorative structures, work for which its members were particularly qualified. And yesterday an ARI spokesman said work on the Colosseum was now about to begin in "inauspicious circumstances".

The special treatment given the relatively lowly Ministry of Justice building has furthered angered the restorers. "Recently the government gave the contract for restoring the Ministry of Justice to specialist 19th-century restoration firms. Why then has the Flavian Amphitheatre been afforded less privileged treatment?" asked a spokesman.

But the director of the Colosseum, Rossella Rea, denied that specialists were not being used. "Restorers are always involved; they're our collaborators and they'll be called on if we need to clean travertine or marble," she said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power