‘Our company has grown thanks to Italy’

A Japanese businessman whose donation helped restore an ancient Roman pyramid said it was a way of thanking Italy for his success, as he toured the monument with Italy's culture minister on Tuesday.

'Our company has grown thanks to Italy'
Italian Culture Minister Dario Franceschini with Yuzo Yagi, Japanese sponsor for the restoration of the Pyramid of Cestius (Piramide Cestia), Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

Dressed in an impeccable white suit, the wavy-haired fashion importer Yuzo Yagi admired the work due to be completed within months thanks to his €2 million ($2.7 million) gift.

"It's an act of gratitude. Our company has grown thanks to Italy," he said at a ceremony on the site – three years after the agreement with Rome authorities was signed.

Asked about the duration, he quipped: "When Italians give a time for finishing, it is never in time. But the first phase is being finished five months ahead of schedule."

Culture Minister Dario Franceschini said he hoped the project would encourage more private donations for restorations – especially from Italian businesses which can now get major tax breaks.

"This should serve as an example," Franceschini said.

When Yagi was taken to the frescoed funeral chamber inside the pyramid that once housed the remains of the wealthy Roman it was built for, he appeared puzzled.

"Where is the treasure?" he asked restorers, who quickly explained that

Roman tradition at the time shunned ostentatious displays of wealth but that a search was underway for a possible hidden second chamber.

"So there was no treasure in Roman pyramids!" he exclaimed.

Outside, he joked with workers cleaning up the pyramid's Carrara marble blocks saying: "Is that really white?"

The 36-metre (118-foot) high pyramid was built in 18-12 BC for Gaius Cestius and stands at the centre of a busy road junction. It was built following Rome's conquest of Egypt, which started off a trend for ancient
Egyptian style.

"This is an amazing construction. It has really stood the test of time," said Giuseppina Fazio, a senior restorer, pointing to some World War II bomb and bullet scars visible from scaffolding on the 2,000-year-old monument.

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No tables free at restaurant in Italy murder row

An Italian restaurateur facing a murder charge for shooting dead a burglar was back behind the stoves on Sunday, cooking for a full house as locals rallied round over his "self-defence" killing.

No tables free at restaurant in Italy murder row
Stock image. Boggy22/Depositphotos

Around 70 people sat down for Sunday lunch in the packed “Osteria dei Amis” in Gugnano near Milan with reporters and some politicians joining villagers in a show of support for 67-year-old Mario Cattaneo.

The chef-owner killed a burglar with a single shot from his hunting rifle early on Friday after three intruders broke into the restaurant while he and other members of his family were sleeping in the flat upstairs.

A local magistrate has placed him under formal investigation on suspicion of voluntary manslaughter, a charge which carries a minimum prison term of 21 years.

The move has sparked outrage among some Italian politicians and calls for a change to the law covering so-called legitimate defence cases.

Cattaneo told reporters outside his restaurant that his gun had gone off during a scuffle with one of the burglars.

“It went off when I fell to the ground. One of them was trying to grab the gun off me and he dragged me along for several metres,” he said.

“It was dark and I didn't see what happened. I only found out someone had died when I was in hospital. I'm really sorry that someone has lost their life.”

In support of his story, the chef-owner showed reporters bruises on his arms he said had been incurred in the scuffle.

The dead man has been identified as a 33-year-old Romanian national who lived locally. He had been shot in the back and his body was found around 100 metres (yards) from the property.

Opposition parties have attempted to capitalise on the case to highlight what they see as out-of-control crime.

Maurizio Gasparri, a close ally of former billionaire prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, is fund-raising for the restaurateur's legal bills.

And Northern League leader Matteo Salvini has called for changes to the law so that self-defence can automatically be invoked in such cases.

As things stand, accused parties usually have to show they had reasonable grounds to fear for their own life to avoid a murder charge.

But some judges have also allowed a “legitimate defence” argument based on a pattern of being regularly targeted by criminals.