Rome needs $770m to restore iconic sites

City issues appeal for help from companies, philanthropists and residents

ROME • Rome has issued a €500 million (S$770 million) SOS to companies, wealthy philanthropists and its citizens to help restore many of the Italian capital's iconic historic sites and avoid the risk of some falling into ruin.

The centre of ancient Rome, the Forum, the Circus Maximus and the walls, aqueducts and sewerage system of what was once the most powerful city on earth have all been earmarked as needing help ranging from a relatively minor spruce-up to full-blown structural works.

Saddled with debts of some €12 billion, Rome cannot afford to do it on its own. But City Cultural Superintendent Claudio Parisi Presicce told a press conference that he believed the city could call in some of the reserves of goodwill, given Rome's role in the construction of Western civilisation: "We need new strategic ideas. We have to create a link between the people living above in the modern city and the ancient city that lies beneath them."

The appeal follows a series of successful initiatives that have seen luxury brands finance renovation projects in the city. Fashion house Fendi bankrolled the cleaning of the Trevi fountain, jeweller Bulgari is in the process of making the Spanish Steps pristine once more and shoemaker/fashion group Tod's is behind a soon-to-be-finished renovation of the Colosseum.

In their wake, the city has drawn up a new "to-do" list that it has priced at nearly €500 million.

An investor willing to put up €10 million will be offered the opportunity to claim the credit for restoring 80 fountains and a more modest €600,000 would allow the authorities to repair the aqueduct that supplies the Trevi fountain. Among the most ambitious projects is a plan to create a walkway around what remains of the city's Aurelian walls, which badly need repair. It comes with a €9 million price tag.

But still reeling from a scandal that revealed widespread corruption in the city administration, Rome's officials may struggle to convince city residents to put their hands in their pockets, admitted Mr Francesco Paolo Tronca, the government-appointed official who has been running the city since the end of last year. "We need help to ensure Rome continues to be a reference point in terms of beauty for the whole world," he said.

Mr Tronca also presented a list of maintenance tasks that enable lovers of the Eternal City to contribute to its renewal for as little as €300.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 26, 2016, with the headline 'Rome needs $770m to restore iconic sites'. Print Edition | Subscribe