Culture / Art Republik

Rome Starts Million Dollar SOS For Landmarks

In view of the ruin of countless historical landmarks, Rome aims for a restoration.

May 27, 2016 | By Staff Writer

Rome’s famous landmarks are in dire need of care, leading the city to put out a call for generous patrons to step forward and help. This actually reminds us of one of our favorite films, which illustrates the current predicament of the Eternal City. The most famous scene in Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita perfectly captures our contemporary treatment of ancient culture.

Marcello, a journalist, tries to woo a beautiful actress while being assigned to her for a story, following her through the parties and the fireworks. They come to the Trevi Fountain in the empty streets of Rome at night. They wade into it. Exactly when he’s about to embrace her, he looks around, and with an act of surreal cinematic editing magic, it is suddenly day. He’s left standing in the pool, confused and befuddled, while the old statues and wandering passers-by look down on him.

Similarly we love to look out on the spectacle of ephemeral fads and the now, while the surrounding grandeur seems to disappear into the background. Statues are relegated to the status of just another part of the scenery, without any implicit depth to them, nor do they hold any concern in our lives. Yet, at the end of the day, the statues still stand, and they’ve seen countless wars, events, and people waltz on by while they’ve held their position.

Still, there’s hope yet, because Rome has dropped a 500-million euro SOS to some of the wealthiest companies and individuals out there to help return these historic sites and statues to their former glory. It is a great thing to see, and a tad ironic, when a fashion house like Fendi bankrolls the cleaning of the Trevi fountain. Other companies are involved too. Bulgari will sweep up the Spanish Steps, while Tod’s will be involved with a renovation of the Colosseum.


Any investor willing to front 10 million euros will be able to claim the credit for restoring 80 fountains around the city. Other projects include creating a walkway around what remains of the city’s Aurelian walls (9 million euros), and, even for those who don’t have that much to spare, a small sum of 300 euros can cover the price of weeding at the remains of an ancient market situated around Trajan’s column.

This new to-do list of restorations adds up to a hefty sum, which the city can’t pay on its own due to its debt of around 12 billion euros, which is why it enlisted help in the first place. “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” commented the City Cultural Superintendent Claudio Parisi Presicce. It may be hard to convince residents though, since they’re still dealing with a backlash caused by a widespread corruption scandal.

One wonders if all this is really worth it, at least to those who feel that, as technology advances and brings us fresh spectacles, we’ll be more and more separate from the world of stone and marble. Another great film director, Orson Welles, put it this way: “Our works in stone, in paint, in print are spared, some of them for a few decades, or a millennium or two, but everything must fall in war or wear away into the ultimate and universal ash: the triumphs and the frauds, the treasures and the fakes. A fact of life: we’re going to die. ‘Be of good heart,’ cry the dead artists out of the living past. Our songs will all be silenced – but what of it? Go on singing.”

This story was written in-house, from a variety of sources including the AFP. Image courtesy of Eva Katalin Kondoros/

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