ROME – The Colosseum lost another piece Tuesday as Rome's most famous monument deteriorated further ahead of a long-delayed restoration funded by an Italian billionaire now scheduled to start in March.
The chunk of volcanic rock fell from one of the iconic arches of the nearly 2,000-year-old structure just two days after a similar incident reported by a group of concerned tourists on Christmas Day put local staff on alert.
The Colosseum -- a 50,000-seat amphitheater that was completed in 80 AD and used for gladiator contests and mock sea battles -- is at the center of a busy traffic junction and is inundated with thousands of tourists every day.
The cultural branch of the Uil trade union criticized the management of the site saying, "the monument is facing a situation of urgency."
In May 2010, falling pieces of the Colosseum also sparked concern.
Diego Della Valle, the owner of high-end shoemaker Tod's, has agreed to provide €25 million ($33 million) for a three-year restoration project that will increase by a quarter the areas to which tourists will have access.
The number of visitors to the site has gone from around one million visitors a year to around six million over the past decade -- thanks in part to Ridley Scott's 2000 epic film "Gladiator" starring Russell Crowe.