by Emanuele Mastrangelo

An open and semi-serious midsummer letter to Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Gennaro Sangiuliano and Giorgia Meloni.

Italy is split in two - as usual - between those who are happy that two ultra-mega-billionaires have chosen our country for their histrionic martial arts meeting and those who instead tear their clothes up in despair and cry out against “cultural heritage damage”.

Certainly it was not very elegant on Musk’s part to announce via X that he had reached an agreement with the Prime Minister and the Minister of Culture before an official statement from the two interested parties. However, Italy has had to swallow much worse over the last 30 years, so we are vaccinated and do not formalize.

But should our country really make available a piece of its archaeological heritage for the circus show (in the broadest sense) of the two web tycoons? Many object - and rightly so - that the experience of Pink Floyd in Venice in 1989 is more than enough. And they were Pink Floyd, not one of those who win at Sanremo today… Nor a couple of hyper-extra-megabillionaires who have taken Bel Paese as their backyard where can organize a football match. Others rightly point out that the two rich men would treat Italy like a high-end escort, 1,000 euros for one night.

Yet can we really give up the opportunity to have the eyes of half the world on the Boot for what - objectively - is the match of the century between two of the most loved (and hated) VIP on the globe. Do we want to be like the snobbish Count Raffaello Mascetti, starving yes, but who once could “buy all the company and walk around with a brown bear on a leash”? We are still too intelligent a people to waste this opportunity and at the same time seize it without having to be waiters with pomaded hair and towels on our forearms in the style of Leslie Illingworth’s anti-Italian propaganda cartoons during World War II.

So here’s the modest proposal: dear multi-ultra-hyper-billionaires, do you want a Roman arena, in a Roman city for your Roman gladiator-style showdown? Great. Build it yourself. Italy provides permits, the Roman city (Rome?), engineers and workforce. You bring the cash.

I’m talking about a philologically perfect copy of a Roman arena: an ellipse in stone and brick of about one hundred meters of major axis, with a capacity of 30,000 spectators, which can be realized with contemporary means but respecting Roman construction techniques. But this would be the minimum.

The real challenge would be to build it by smashing all the timing of Europeanized Italy: bureaucracy, permits, appeals to Regional Administrative Courts (TARs)…"

Now imagine: eighteen months to find the area, acquire it from private individuals if necessary (oh, you have the money, don’t be stingy), carry out the necessary preparatory demolitions and urbanization works (30,000 seats: an adequate parking lot is needed for at least 10,000 cars), order and store materials (no reinforced concrete, only brick and stone, don’t cheat). Obviously, in the meantime, you have to take architects, scholars of Archeology and Roman History and drawn them to the whip so that they produce an operational project. Which is not very difficult because it would be enough to slavishly copy one of the many amphitheaters left by the Empire throughout the Mediterranean world.

And here comes the hard part: obtaining permits, carrying out feasibility and environmental impact studies as quickly as possible, overcoming inevitable protests, appeals to TARs (there will be some because ours is a people of saints, poets, navigators and troublemakers). And here shall reveal itself the excellence of a Government that already said yes to Musk.

The final result would be an enterprise worthy of being remembered for centuries. Not so much for its architectural value - for the Romans that was trivial - but for having given a whiplash, a shock to a country that is asleep if not dying. A nation that took a decade to build rubbish like Fuksas’ “Nuvola”, where Rome’s subways construction are the world’s joke and whose Museum of Roman Civilization has been closed since 2014 because of a trivial structural failure (so they say).

In the end, the arena built with the lavish checks of the two ultra-hyper-mega-billionaires would remain in Italy as the center of a new historical-museum (or as an addition to something already existing: a reborned Museum of Roman Civilization, for example), making it a candidate to animate exhibitions, conferences and above all historical re-enactment shows and experimental or living history. A form of infotainment that is already done at very high levels in many other countries (not with centurions with socks under their caligae and a watch on their wrist, to be clear) with real university-quality lessons for viewers of all ages and total immersion in the past life and customs, which unfortunately in Italy (and in Rome in particular) is very underestimated.

In conclusion, dear gentlemen, you can go down in history as enriched buffoons and clumsy waiters or go down in history as daring builders and courageous reclaimers of Italian bureaucratic swamps. You choose.

(PS. I gave you a hint about an excellent location just steps from the Museum of Roman Civilization in EUR. If you demolished that abomination you would enter the firmament on a par with an Apollo Pythius).

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Editor of the Machiavelli Study Center's blog "Belfablog," Emanuele Mastrangelo has been editor-in-chief of "Storia in Rete" since 2006. A military-historical cartographer, he is the author of several books (with Enrico Petrucci, Iconoclastia. La pazzia contagiosa della cancel culture che sta distruggendo la nostra storia e Wikipedia. L'enciclopedia libera e l'egemonia dell'informazione).