Secret Passage Unearthed

Archaeologists digging up the remains of an ancient Roman theatre discovered under the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence have found a “vomitorium” or corridor used by as many as 15,000 theatre goers in the first and second centuries A.D., city officials say.

The latest find at the site in the center of the Tuscan capital includes the original painted stone pavements along which spectators used to walk from the outer circle of the theatre to the orchestra pit, which already had been excavated during previous digs. Also discovered were well shafts going as deep as more than 30 feet below the current surface of Florence, providing water and waste disposal for the theatre, as well as remains of the foundations of the walls used to build the Salone dei Cinquecento.

The Roman theatre was built originally for use by an audience of some 7,000 people but at the height of its popularity in the first and second centuries AD as many as 10,000-15,000 spectators are believed to have packed in to enjoy performances there, the archaeologists say.

The theatre was in use until the 5th century before being abandoned and eventually forgotten. Its remains were gradually brought to light in the 18th century when Florence was transformed into the first capital of a united Italy in 1865 and the city center was systematically modernized.

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