The heart of Rome could be excavated and turned into a giant archaeological theme park.
The heart of Rome could be excavated and turned into a giant archaeological theme park

The new mayor of Rome wants to dig up an avenue built by Mussolini in the 1920s, and expose the glories of ancient Rome to the light of day once more.

Ignazio Marino, a former transplant surgeon, said he wants to "wield a scalpel" on the Via dei Fori Imperiali to uncover ancient temples and other great remnants of the ancient world.

His aim is to create "the planet's biggest archaeological park" to bring more tourists to Italy's capital city.

"We know that under Mussolini's avenue there are the forums of Nerva, Julius Caesar, Trajan and Augustus. If London or Washington had this treasure, which represents western civilisation, could they have covered it up with tarmac?" Marino told The Sunday Times.

The Mayor said the excavations would be funded by "international sponsors, people who have great wealth and would be proud to take part in such an ambitious project.

 "We could bring to light the entire forums of emperors such as Caesar and Augustus, for example, and destroy everything that was built over them during hundreds of years."

Adriano La Regina, one of Italy's leading archaeologists was positive about the plan: "We could give a new face to the heart of ancient Rome, with previously buried piazzas, temples, basilicas and giant statues of emperors. The whole history of the capital, from Caesar to the end of the empire, happened here."

The Colosseum is due to undergo a £22m restoration from later this month, funded by the shoe multi-millionaire Diego Della Valle.

The almost 2,000-year old arena, where gladiators fought bloody battles for the entertainment of thousands of citizens, has been blackened with exhaust from heavy traffic that for years passed close to its walls.

Cars have been banned from roads circling the Colosseum in the first stage to pedestrianise the area. This has caused angry protests from local shopkeepers, who say it will affect their trade.

However, Marino, a keen cyclist, defended his decision: "I don't think any other city in the world ... would have turned the Colosseum, probably the most famous monument on the planet, into a roundabout."

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Unseen, VERY graphic images of Mussolini's corpse