Colosseum Gets A Good 2,000-Year Scouring

Apr 27, 2014
Originally published on April 27, 2014 6:45 pm
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For two millennia, the Colosseum in Rome has been collecting layers of dirt and grime. Finally, it's getting a top-to-bottom scrubbing. The Roman monument was, of course, the center of entertainment back in the day where people could go to catch a really good show, like a gladiator fight, mock naval battle, or public execution. Millions of tourists visit the amphitheater these days, but it's filthy, covered in black gunk from car pollution, damaged by earthquakes, and stripped of materials over the centuries.

For this cleanup, which started last December, hundreds of water jets lightly spray the travertine limestone for one to four hours at a time. Then workers come in with soft-bristled brushes and toothbrushes. They could just rely on the water spray alone, but too much water can damage the limestone and artificially whiten it. The project is being funded by Diego Della Valle, the billionaire CEO of Tod's, an Italian fashion and luxury brand. The Wall Street Journal reports that the cleaning will cost $35 million and that the Colosseum will be spick and span by 2016. You're listening to NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.