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Ruling lets Italy hunt abroad for new Colosseum chief

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ROME (AP) — The international search for a new director for Rome's Colosseum will go forward after a legal challenge by the city that had halted it was dismissed by a national administrative tribunal, Italy's culture minister pledged Tuesday.

Culture Minister Dario Franceschini hailed the ruling Monday by the national Council of State, which overturned the decision of a regional body that had blocked his plan to consider hiring non-Italians to lead some of art-rich Italy's museums, monuments and archaeological sites.

"We lost some time, luckily just a little," in the search for the Colosseum's next director, Franceschini said.

So far 82 applicants are seeking the post, 16 of them non-Italians, he said. The goal is to have the successful candidate start on Jan. 1, 2018, Franceschini said.

Bringing in experts from outside Italy is part of Franceschini's efforts to modernize Italy's museums, including the Uffizi in Florence. But the culture minister's stated goal of having foreigners run renowned Italian institutions and making them more user-friendly and innovative has faced resistance in Italy's entrenched art and archaeology communities.

The city of Rome this spring persuaded a regional administrative tribunal to block reforms planned for the Colosseum. As well as allowing a foreign director, the proposal would have made the ancient arena part of an archaeological park along with the Palatine Hill and the extensive ruins nearby of Emperor Nero's fabled palace, the Domus Aurea.

Franceschini said 30 percent of the Colosseum's revenues will help fund operations of museums and archaeology sites under Rome's jurisdiction. Rome officials had expressed concern that with the reform, the Colosseum's revenues would no longer help local museums.

The number of visitors to the Colosseum increased 12.5 percent during the first half of the year compared to the same period last year, while ticket sales and similar revenues increased by nearly 11 percent, the minister said.

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