ROME – The Colosseum in Rome reopened its doors on Monday along with Italy’s other cultural sites in a step towards post-virus normality after almost three months of closures.
The capital’s ancient amphitheater welcomed visitors again but without the normal queues of tourists and amid stricter security measures.
It had been closed to the public since March 8 when the Italian government imposed a lockdown to contain the COVID-19 outbreak.
Alfonsina Russo, director of the Colosseum archaeological park, described it as a “tragic moment” at the reopening ceremony.
The historical site spent 84 days in silence and was allowed to let visitors in again after the outbreak was brought under control in Italy.
The country was one of the worst-hit by the pandemic, with more than 233,000 confirmed cases and 33,400 deaths.
Rome’s Colosseum is a national symbol of Italian culture and the reopening ceremony had a celebratory air, attended by military officers and government officials.
There are a series of new security measures to avoid any fresh infections at the site.
To enter the building visitors must pass in front of an electronic device that records their temperature and ensures they are wearing a mask.
Advance ticket reservations have been made mandatory, with modified hours to avoid peak hours on public transport and two new tours have been introduced on an experimental basis until June 30.
Visitors will be able to see graffiti that was found on the walls during the closure which reveals the site’s many uses since its abandonment in the 6th century, including as a quarry, fortress and cattle stable.
The same security measures are also in place at the nearby Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill, which have four different tours of different durations.
A doctor has also been stationed at the entrance of the Colosseum to attend to any visitors whose body temperature is above 37.5C.
The monument normally welcomes an average of 20,000 visitors a day and a total of 7.5 million in 2019, of which 70% were foreign.
Italian authorities closed the country’s borders three months ago which put a stop to all international tourism.
On Monday only 300 people had reserved tickets and the Colosseum and Forum are not expected to see more than 1,500 visitors a day.
It is hoped the numbers will increase from Wednesday when Italy’s regional borders will reopen and the country will also allow arrivals from inside the European Union.
Monday’s first visitors begin to arrive shortly after 10:00 am.
Two of them are Francesco and Natale, a couple who walk hand in hand in the shadow of the monument, as the temperature has already begun to rise in Rome.
He is Roman and has decided to show the Colosseum to his wife, a Russian teacher, now that it is not crowded.
“Empty Rome hurts us, tourists are missing, we hope to return as soon as possible,” they tell EFE.
Italy’s museums and cultural sites have all been closed in recent months but now they are beginning to return to normality.
The Vatican Museums and Papal Palace also received their first tourists on Monday after three months of closure.
From Tuesday, which is Italian National Day, Rome’s remaining museums will also be allowed to reopen.