Living Heritage – Colosseum Condos

April 1, 2014 / Local Interest
Rome, Italy

While the “Living Heritage” school of archaeology is a recent development within academia, the idea itself is nothing new. The lovely concerts that have been played in the amphitheatre of Taormina since the ’60s for example can be construed as examples of “Living Heritage,” even if they pre-date the controversial concept by a couple of decades.

While the Ph.Ds that expouse the movement might disagree, the concept is quite simple as far as I understand it. Traditional (or Victorian) archaeology aims to maintain and present a site as it was found/unearthed/uncovered and to basically freeze it in time in its “original form” for posterity, much like the static exhibits in museums of old, a la cabinet of curiosities. “Living Heritage” on the other hands holds that there is no such thing as the “original form” of a building, that any human construct is ongoing, evolving, ever-changing.

Much example is made of the Theatre of Marcellus on the banks of the Tiber below the Capitoline. Built as an amphitheatre in Ancient Rome, it became a quarry in the early middle ages, a fortress in the 11th century, the Corsini’s palazzo in Rome during the Renaissance, and people still live in it to this day… living heritage, appunto (lit., just, or exactly). The idea is that its beauty and significance are enhanced because it is continuously being re-interpreted and modified.

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Even if the concept is already a few decades old, Rome’s Archaeology Superintendency has recently embraced “Living Heritage” too. For example, a few years ago a couple of Greek tragedies were performed in the Colosseum for small crowds (about a quarter of the original arena was covered with a special stage).


The Superintendency’s recent project has however stirred up quite a debate, even though it will be done with all the latest low-impact materials and techniques and will be reversible. They have decided to replicate, in 21st century style, what was done with the Theatre of Marcellus and to turn some of the greater upper level arches of the Colosseum into what will surely become some of the more sought after real estate, if not on the planet then certainly in Europe.


The 42 greater arches will allow for just as many 600 square foot condos, in which each arch will be enclosed entirely in a single 30 foot wide wall of glass. Given that the greater arches are 120 feet off the ground, this should afford quite the view of downtown Rome.

Work on the Colosseum Condos has already begun and the Mayor’s office is already accepting down payments to secure the 99-year leases, at the cost of one pesce d’aprile each. (lit., April’s fish, aka April fools’.)




by GB Bernardini

Editor, Italian Notebook

39 Responses to “Living Heritage – Colosseum Condos”

  1. Taube Ponce

    I was reading this note in increasing horror and disbelief – until I got to the last sentence and breathed a sigh of relief! Yes, I fell completely into the April Fool’s joke – congratulations!

  2. Sitting in boulder hotel waiting to see your new niece when read your note. Good idea! Thats roman bureaucracy liberalizing . . . When it hit me! Got me again!

  3. marjorie lee

    What is the Italian equivalent of “GOTCHA”? Very well written, I was going to forward it to a PhD student who is working on “authenticity” in architecture–preservation, adaptive re-use, etc. I was pretty horrified at the thought of condos, but the inclusion of the thoughtful materials and it being “reversible” made it plausible. Good work, good writing!

  4. Elaine Atkinson

    I was screaming nooooooo, and then I realized it was a joke!

  5. Penny Ewles-Bergeron
    Penny Ewles-Bergeron

    I was wondering what fish you would serve us up this April and you didn’t disappoint, GB!

  6. Oh, I was getting red in the face about condos in the Colosseum – I’d seen the scaffolding in the news when Obama visited and thought it was restoration – but 600 sf condos? Ha! The joke’s on me! Thanks for a fab laugh this morning!

  7. Jette aka Yetta

    I cottoned on quite quickly, but only beause
    1) I have seen the scaffold there on ‘skylinewebcam’ since (?) well quite a while. 2) I was caught out earlier today by our local paper which ran a ‘newsflash’ about some hypermarket (that we had seen off) coming to our area :-)

  8. Joan Schmelzle

    Since I happen to know Italians like April Fool’s Day, I was not taken in even before the last line, which I actually didn’t read because I was in a hurry to comment. However, many people beast me to it. You should check out Italy Chronicles website to read their story about who is buying Pompei. Until the description of the changes I almost thought it was feasible!

  9. Pat Carney Ceccarelli
    Pat Carney Ceccarelli

    Our editor has done it again! Or outdone it, what imagination! Happy spring to all the merry readers of Italian Notebook!

  10. Lee Iacovoni Sorenson

    First, I was dismayed, then laughed out loud. Well done, GB!

  11. Jim and Alice

    Bravissimo, GB!!!!!!!!!!!!! Are we the only ones who first felt jealousy…and then relief? Well Done. Kinda reminds us of Frank Sinatra trying to sell the Brooklyn Bridge at one of his shows!!!!!!!!!

  12. Giancarlos: Is this really true? Cannot fathom such, but then again, as we wrote the article about Terracina for you, anything is possible in the Roman world.
    Suzanne and Ron

  13. Giuseppe Spano
    Giuseppe Spano

    It is indeed a beautiful structure, most worthy of reconstruction. It served as a backdrop one exciting night for the late Salvatore Licitra and Marcello Alvarez (la Dueto) in concert. The beauty of Teatro di Marcello added to an evening to remember…

  14. John Figliozzi

    I read that the Mayor of Rome is planning to have the ancient cages re-stocked with wild animals so the condo residents will not have to go to the zoo. A small fee and you simply go downstairs to see lions, just like “the old days”. Bravo GB!

  15. Connie Hoffman

    Ha! Ha! April Fools to you, too. Clever, very clever!

  16. Tony Cogan

    Thank God this is only an April Fool’s joke! I felt sick in the stomach when I read it. Was just about to write how appalled I was when I saw the other comments. One of the most beautiful sights in the world which I am looking forward to visiting again in September.

  17. Rosemary

    Got me again!! I was actually thinking WOW, really – what a great view and imagine how much THOSE will cost!

  18. I can’t believe I fell for this! I walked around my office yesterday complaining to everyone that this was happening. Then finally I go back to read it over and wow! How silly of me to disregard that last sentence : ) Excellent job on this article, my favorite so far I think. Keep up the great work!

  19. walter silvia

    you really hooked me on this one …couldn’t believe it was happening…then I read the last line….we really enjoy this publication….diann and walter silvia (lived in Rome in the late 90’s and became good friends of Yolanda)


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