GAINING entry to Rome’s archaeological sites is never a sure thing. Long affected by collapses, paltry budgets and red tape, historic sites must often limit access, even to places that have been recently restored at great expense. But this fall, many sites are revealing themselves anew, extending their hours and opening up areas that had been shuttered to the public.
“We have been working hard to open more areas of the Colosseum, to allow new views of the building and to distribute visitors throughout the structure,” said Dr. Rossella Rea, the Colosseum’s director.
In the fall, a limited area of the substructure beneath the floor, as well as the third-story parapet, will be open to visitors during normal hours until the weather cools, Dr. Rea said.
The substructure — or hypogeum — was a staging area akin to the back stage of a theater, with a few distinctions. It was a dark and dangerous, yet extraordinarily well organized place, where wild beasts, animals, gladiators and condemned criminals waited to be brought onstage via trap doors, ramps or elevators powered by men.
Dr. Rea credited the new openness to Dr. Roberto Cecchi, who became archaeological commissioner for Rome and Ostia last year. Unlike his predecessors, Dr. Cecchi is an architect, not a career politician, and has devoted decades to preserving and promoting the city’s cultural patrimony. His impact can be felt elsewhere in Rome. Nearby, in the Roman Forum, the recently restored Temple of Romulus (a misnamed structure that may have been the Temple of Jupiter Stator) will be open Saturday mornings through Oct. 23. This fourth-century pagan monument, which is rarely open, was transformed into a church centuries after it was built, and its walls contain medieval frescoes and decorative elements.
Another set of restored frescoes will be on view at the House of Livia Saturday mornings through Oct. 23. A villa built during the Roman Republic and later adapted into an Imperial residence, the House of Livia has vibrantly colored frescoes dating back to the first century B.C. that depict rural landscapes, architecture and mythology.
Near the Palatine Hill, the Baths of Caracalla will host Saturday night visits through Oct 23. Though they have previously been the backdrop for evening opera performances, this is the first time these magnificent ruins will be open to the public for tours after dark.
These new fall options for visiting Rome’s most celebrated archaeological parks is tremendously exciting for both travelers and archaeologists. Yet in a city where cultural financing is tenuous, it is important to seize on new openings as they come about. “We want to continue to do more here,” Dr. Rea said, “but in the end it all depends on money.”