For the first time in its more than 2,000-year history, the Mausoleum of Augustus in Rome will be fully open to the public starting from Tuesday.
But Roman history buffs may have to wait a little longer to see the inside of the resting place of the Roman Empire’s most iconic leaders.
Plans for the refurbishment of the massive structure, nested on the eastern banks of the Tiber River in the heart of Rome’s historical centre, were first announced in 2006.
Now, after at least half a dozen delays and with a budget of more than 10 million euros ($12 million), doors are set to open to all, 2,049 years after construction on the brick and travertine structure began.
The mausoleum was the final resting place for the remains of Caesar Augustus and more than two dozen members of his family and subsequent emperors and other leaders up until the end of the first century.
Since then, it has been sacked, plundered, buried and abandoned. It has been used as a castle, as stables, apartments, a circus and a concert hall. But this is the first time in its long history it will be fully open to the public.
“There have been a few times over the centuries that the mausoleum was open by special appointment or for special events, but this is the first time anyone will have the level of access they will have now,” said archaeologist Elisabetta Carnabuci, head of the refurbishment initiative.
The problem for anyone who wants to see it in the near term is that tickets for the mausoleum are sold out until late April.
Rome Mayor Virginia Raggi, who formally visited the mausoleum on Monday, declared in December 2020 that tickets would be available free of charge for anyone from the March 2 opening until April 21, the date considered to be the anniversary of Rome’s founding in 753 BC.
After that, residents will be able to visit at no cost until the end of the year. Though the structure is large, nearly 100 metres across and more than 40 metres in height, access will be limited to allow for social distancing due to the pandemic.