Sponsors sought to help save ancient treasures of Italy
ROME — Friends, Romans, countrymen! Oh yes, and countrywomen. And people in far-flung nations. Everyone, basically. Rome is seeking all the sponsors it can find to fund the monumental job of restoring and maintaining its hundreds of fountains, statues, archaeological sites and historic palazzos.
Perennially short of funds to properly care for the sprawling, two-millennia legacy of art and history, city officials on Tuesday offered their thanks to corporate sponsors of ambitious restoration projects.
Among them are luxury goods companies Fendi, which has been sponsoring work to restore splendor to several famed fountains, including a tourist favorite, Trevi, from the ravages of pollution and pigeons; and Bulgari, which is sponsoring restoration of the Spanish Steps in the heart of Rome’s most chic shopping district.
Officials said the nation of Azerbaijan has helped to restore a room of the Capitoline Museums, while lighting that has made the boulevard flanking the Imperial Forums a popular romantic evening stroll was paid for by Unilever and Acea, a local utility company.
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But Rome is hungry for more such generosity, corporate and otherwise. On Tuesday, officials launched the “100 proposals for patrons” campaign listing projects they hope sponsors — including rank-and-file citizens — will step forward to “adopt.” They include fountains near the Pantheon, in Piazza Navona and in Villa Borghese park; Trajan’s Bath, Trajan’s Forum and archaeological study of an area near Caesar’s Forum. One proposed “adoption” is at City Hall’s front steps: the piazza atop a stepped ramp designed by Michelangelo.
Another proposal is Ludus Magnus, a site of what was the main training school for gladiators, just up the road from the Colosseum.
Also on the “adoptable” list is the Sacred Area of Largo Argentina, which includes ruins of several Republican-era temples smack in the middle of a traffic-clogged square. A colony of cats currently rules the ruins, while tourists can only look down on the closed monument from the sidewalk. The city is hoping someone will fork out over 1.5 million euros ($1.65 million) to restore the site.
The Rome office of Italia Nostra, an Italian association advocating care of the country’s historic, artistic and natural treasures, said it stepped forward in 2014 with an offer to restore those ruins and still awaits a response from city authorities.
Right now, “tourists see a hole” and “not an area near where Julius Caesar was killed,” said Vanna Mannucci, the Rome section’s vice president. She noted that visitors could easily fall while exploring the terrain, so work is needed to make it safe.
Modern-day versions of Renaissance merchant princes like the Medici could also mean long-closed monuments, like the Mausoleum of Augustus, might open to tourists.
For proud Romans, such closures are “like having a room closed in our house,” said Claudio Parisi Presicce, the city superintendent of artistic and archaeological heritage.
Restoration experts have long bemoaned that prestigious monuments like the Colosseum readily find sponsors while less famous monuments in dire need of repair go begging for patrons. Cleaning and reinforcement work at the Colosseum costing some $34 million is being paid for by the founder of Tod’s luxury leather goods and shoes.
But that could be changing. Parisi Presicce pointed out that a fountain beloved by Romans but not that famous to outsiders — the Babuino Fountain with the so-called Talking Statue — was recently restored by menswear maker Brioni.