Back in May, the ministry of cultural heritage said it would open the subterranean level of the Colosseum -- the section below the arena where gladiators and animals would have waited for their turn to fight -- by the end of the summer.
That didn't exactly happen on time, but it is happening. The (still-provisional) opening date, which was just announced, will be Monday, October 11. Update, Oct. 14: On October 14, the ministry announced that the subterranean and third-level area is now open to the public. (Yay!) You can access the subterranean area via guided tours, which start on Oct. 19. To book, click here.
The hypogeum, as the underground area is called, has never been open to the public before. A series of two-level passageways and rooms beneath the area, it would have been dark, dank, and filled with terrified animals and (perhaps also terrified) gladiators. If walking through where bloodthirsty spectators would have sat doesn't give you chills, exploring these underground chambers certainly should.
The restoration of the hypogeum is part of a much bigger plan for the Colosseum, which the ministry plans to restore by 2013. That is, if they can find private sponsors for the $33 million renovation. Hey, you get advertising space on one of the world's most iconic monuments in return. Anyone? Anyone?