Rome’s famous Colosseum reopened on Monday after a three-month coronavirus lockdown, but just a few hundred people visited Italy’s top tourism site.
The massive amphitheater, which witnessed savage fights and the gory deaths of unlucky gladiators and wild animals centuries ago, was eerily silent as the first tourists passed through its gates with new health protocols in place.
Officials said they expected only 300 people, a far cry from the thousands of tourists (70 percent of them are foreigners) who jam-pack the stadium on a normal basis. Also visibly absent were the modern-day gladiators usually parading outside, waving their plastic swords.
The Colosseum’s Director Alfonsina Russo said it had been “surreal” seeing the empty landmark during the quarantine. “It’s a symbol of Rome and of Italy. But the sense of emptiness highlighted the great beauty of this place and its fragility,” she told AFP.
On Wednesday, visitors from within the European Union will be allowed to travel for the first time to Italy, but borders remain closed to tourists from further afield. Italy’s tourism sector is vital for the economy, accounting for about 13 percent of revenues. Museums were allowed by law to open on May 18, but many still remain closed as they await a greater influx of tourists.