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Rome in €500m plea to restore historic icons to former glory

Rome on Tuesday issued a €500 million SOS to companies, wealthy philanthropists and its own citizens to help restore many of the Italian capital's iconic historic sites and avoid the risk of some falling into ruin.

Rome in €500m plea to restore historic icons to former glory
A man dressed as Julius Caesare takes part in an event to mark the anniversary of the legendary foundation of the Eternal City in 753 BC, on April 19th, 2015. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

The centre of ancient Rome, the Forum, the Circus Maximus and the walls, aqueducts and sewage 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 ($13 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 central role in the construction of Western civilization.

“We need new strategic ideas. We have to create a link between the people living above the modern city and the ancient city that lies beneath them,” he said.

Still reeling from a scandal which revealed widespread corruption in the city administration, Rome officials may struggle to convince city residents to put their hands in their pockets for the proposed makeover, admitted 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,” said Tronca, who was brought in after the former mayor Ignazio Marino quit over a minor expenses row unrelated to the broader corruption scandal.

The appeal by Tronca, whose role is coming to an end with the approach of fresh mayoral elections, follows a series of successful initiatives which have seen top luxury brands finance prestigious renovation projects in the city.

Fashion house Fendi bankrolled the cleaning of the Trevi fountain, posh 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.

Weeding required

In the wake of those projects, the city has drawn up a new 'to-do' list which it has costed at nearly €500 million.

Projects include carrying out new excavations under the Forum and restoring the gladiators' school that once trained up the legendary fighters to do battle before emperors and ordinary citizens in the nearby Colosseum.

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, built in the third century AD and in bad repair in parts. That comes with a nine million euro price tag.

Tronca also presented a list of maintenance tasks which offer lovers of the Eternal City to contribute to its renewal for as little as €300 – the price of weeding required at the remains of an ancient market situated around Trajan's column.

LA BELLA VITA

La Bella Vita: Free Italian museum tickets, Sanremo, and real spaghetti carbonara

From seeing Italy's best sights for free to avoiding crimes against Italian food, new weekly newsletter La Bella Vita offers you an essential starting point for eating, talking, drinking and living like an Italian.

La Bella Vita: Free Italian museum tickets, Sanremo, and real spaghetti carbonara

La Bella Vita is our regular look at the real culture of Italy – from language to cuisine, manners to art. This new newsletter will be published weekly and you can receive it directly to your inbox, by going to newsletter preferences in ‘My Account’ or follow the instructions in the newsletter box below.

The cold weather and grey skies mean February is the month when I’m most tempted to stay at home and keep warm, preferably with an Italian hot chocolate. But it’s a shame to stay in when there’s so much to do and see in Italy, even at this time of year.

Carnival season officially kicks off this weekend, bringing much-needed colour and joy to towns and cities across Italy at what would otherwise be a pretty dull time of year. The most famous Carnival of all is of course in Venice, and this year’s edition promises a return to its former grand scale after three years of limited celebrations.

If you’re thinking of attending this year, here’s our quick guide to the events and what to expect:

Venice Carnival: What to expect if you’re attending in 2023

A masked reveller wearing a traditional carnival costume In St Mark's Square, Venice

The 2023 Venice Carnival will start with a floating parade down the Grand Canal on February 4th. Photo by Andrea PATTARO / AFP

Another reason to get out and about this weekend is Domenica al Museo or ‘free museum Sundays’, when museums and other sites open their doors ticket-free on the first Sunday of every month.

As admission to major historical monuments and museums in Italy often costs upwards of €15 per person, there are big savings to be made and the free Sundays scheme is understandably popular among both tourists and residents.

Free entry applies to hundreds of state-run museums, archaeological parks and monuments, including world-famous sites like the Colosseum, Pompeii, Florence’s Galleria dell’Accademia, the Reggia di Caserta and Trieste’s Miramare Castle. See further details in our article:

What you need to know about Italy’s free museum Sundays

There is however at least one good reason to stay in and watch some Italian TV: The Sanremo Music Festival returns on Tuesday, February 7th, and it will likely be the main topic of conversation all week.

If you’re a fan of Eurovision, you’re pretty much guaranteed to love it. But some people don’t find the appeal of the show immediately obvious, to put it mildly.

So what is it about the festival that pulls together an entire nation, regardless of whether they fall into the ‘love it’ or ‘hate it’ camp? We looked at just why this 73-year-old song contest is such an Italian institution.

Why is the Sanremo music festival so important to Italians?

In the latest international Italian food controversy, Italian media reacted with anger and dismay this week to a recipe published in the New York Times for ‘tomato carbonara’, which recommended adding tomato sugo along with the eggs, and replacing pork cheek and pecorino with bacon and parmesan – an adaptation which was described as “provocative”, “disgusting”, and a “declaration of war”.

For anyone who doesn’t want to traumatise their Italian dinner guests or risk sparking a diplomatic incident, here’s the classic recipe plus a look at the rules to follow when making a real Roman-style carbonara:

The ten unbreakable rules for making real pasta carbonara

However, you might be surprised to hear that adding cream – or tomato – to your carbonara recipe isn’t actually the worst food crime you could commit according to Italians.

From fruity pizza toppings to spaghetti bolognese, an international study revealed which of the most common international ‘adaptations’ are seen as most and least offensive.

RANKED: The 11 worst food crimes you can commit according to Italians

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Is there an aspect of the Italian way of life you’d like to see us write more about on The Local? Please email me at [email protected]

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