by Soo Kim, The Daily Telegraph, September 22, 2016
The Spanish Steps in Rome have been reopened to the public today following a €1.5 million (£1.3 million) restoration funded by Buglari, the Italian jewellery brand of the French luxury goods group LVMH (Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton).
|Photo by: AP Photo/Andrew Medichini/Via Newscred|
The famed steps immortalised by the late American actors Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn in the film Roman Holiday were closed since last October for various restoration work including stain removal, the re-levelling of the steps, the repairing of cracked paving stones and the original lamps that lit up the steps.
Its grand reopening was met with controversy as Paolo Bulgari, the chairman of the eponymous jewellery company, called for a permanent fence to be built at the top and bottom of the travertine and marble staircase and for it to be locked every night to block access to “barbarian” hordes of tourists.
“It is a precious and fragile monument, like many others in Rome and across Italy. Now that it’s been restored, we cannot allow it to revert to being an open-air sewer,” Mr Bulgari told La Repubblica, an Italian newspaper.
“We cannot leave it to the barbarians who eat and drink there, making it dirty. People should be able to stroll up and down it but they shouldn’t be allowed to use it like the steps of a stadium, sitting for hours, getting drunk and throwing their cigarette butts on the ground,” he added.
While the proposal was welcomed by some local business owners from the city’s most exclusive shopping street Via dei Condotti, it was rejected by Claudio Parisi Presicce, Rome’s superintendent of cultural heritage, who said: “You can’t preserve precious monuments with fences.”
Audrey Hepburn (left) and Gregory Peck (right) on the Spanish Steps in a scene from the film Roman Holiday
“People should be able to walk up and down the Spanish Steps both during the day and at night. That’s how it was originally designed, to allow people to stroll.
“We need do to more about preventing damage, starting with educating people. Tourists behave badly because they copy what they see Romans doing.”
Bulgari is the latest to join the growing trend of fashion brands throwing their weight behind the restoration of Italy’s landmarks.
Fendi, the Italian fashion house run by Chanel’s creative director and German fashion designer Karl Lagerfield, was responsible for the restoration of Rome’s Trevi Fountain, which reopened last year following a €2.5 million (£2.1 million), 20-month long renovation.
A fashion show in July at the Trevi Fountain by Fendi, the fashion house that funded the restoration of the fountain last yearCredit: Getty
Earlier this summer, Rome marked the completion of the first stage of the Colosseum’s €25 million (£21.4 million) restoration backed by luxury shoe brand Tod’s. Its full renovation will see the construction of a new visitor centre at the ancient Roman site and the restoration of the building's passageways.
Diesel, the Italian clothing company, also previously announced its funding of the €5 million (£4.3 million) renovation of Venice ’s 16th century Rialto Bridge, the oldest of the four bridges crossing the Grand Canal of the city.
Protective measures for some of Rome’s landmarks and architectural treasures have been in place since 2012, when city officials issued a new law under which visitors could face a fine between €25 (£21) and €500 (£428) for eating pizza, sandwiches and any other snacks around the city’s monuments.
The sites where snacking is banned include the marble fountains of Piazza Navona, the stone walls which surround the Pantheon, a former Roman temple converted into a church, and Via dei Fori Imperiali, the broad approach to the Colosseum, the ancient Roman arena where gladiators once fought.
"It is forbidden to encamp or erect makeshift shelters and stop to eat or drink in zones which have a particular historic or architectural value," the ordinance adopted by Rome city council read.
The law is intended to "guarantee the protection of areas of merit in the historic centre." Similar bans have been adopted in Venice, where eating snacks on the street is prohibited in St Mark's Square, as well as Florence and Bologna.
Earlier this summer, a British woman faced a €450 (£386) fine for jumping into the Trevi Fountain wearing an evening dress and fur stole, evoking the famous scene by Swedish actress Anita Ekberg in the classic Italian film La Dolce Vita.
Back in 2014, a Russian tourist was fined €20,000 (£17,100) for carving a 10-inch “K” on to the Colosseum in Rome using a pointed stone, which was at least the fifth case of vandalism at the ancient attraction that year.
Visitors to Rome's 'Mouth of Truth' sculpture are now charged €2 for access to the statue and to take one photograph beside it
This week it was also reported that visitors to Rome’s Bocca della Verità (the ‘Mouth of Truth’), a marble face sculpture set in the church of the Santa Maria in Cosmedin which is also featured in Roman Holiday, are now being charged €2 (£1.70) for access to the statue and to take one photograph beside it. The sculpture is said to be monitored by a church official to ensure each tourist snaps only one photo with it.
The ancient statue, which is thought to be a part of a first century Roman fountain, is known for a legend saying those who tell a lie and put their hand in the mouth of the face would have their hand bitten off.
The new fee has raised eyebrows among local media but the Santa Maria church claims the fees will go towards the revamping of the eighth century church which was last said to have been renovated nearly nine centuries ago.
Follow Telegraph Travel
This article was written by Soo Kim from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.