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.


Why Friday the 13th isn’t an unlucky date in Italy

Unlucky for some, but not for Italians. Here's why today's date isn't a cause for concern in Italy - but Friday the 17th is.

Why Friday the 13th isn't an unlucky date in Italy

When Friday the 13th rolls around, many of us from English-speaking countries might reconsider any risky plans. And it’s not exactly a popular date for weddings in much of the western world.

But if you’re in Italy, you don’t need to worry about it.

There’s no shortage of strongly-held superstitions in Italian culture, particularly in the south. But the idea of Friday the 13th being an inauspicious date is not among them.

Though the ‘unlucky 13’ concept is not unknown in Italy – likely thanks to the influence of American film and TV – here the number is in fact usually seen as good luck, if anything.

The number 17, however, is viewed with suspicion and Friday the 17th instead is seen as the unlucky date to beware of.

Just as some Western airlines avoid including the 13th row on planes, you might find number 17 omitted on Italian planes, street numbering, hotel floors, and so on – so even if you’re not the superstitious type, it’s handy to be aware of.

The reason for this is thought to be because in Roman numerals the number 17 (XVII) is an anagram of the Latin word VIXI, meaning ‘I have lived’: the use of the past tense apparently suggests death, and therefore bad luck. It’s less clear what’s so inauspicious about Friday.

So don’t be surprised if, next time Friday 17th rolls around, you notice some Italian shops and offices closed per scaramanzia’.

But why then does 13 often have a positive connotation in Italy instead?

You may not be too surprised to learn that it’s because of football.

Ever heard of Totocalcio? It’s a football pools betting system in which players long tried to predict the results of 13 different matches.

There were triumphant calls of ho fatto tredici! – ‘I’ve done thirteen’ – among those who got them all right. The popular expression soon became used in other contexts to mean ‘I hit the jackpot’ or ‘that was a stroke of luck!’

From 2004, the number of games included in Totocalcio rose to 14, but you may still hear winners shout ‘ho fatto tredici’ regardless.

Other common Italian superstitions include touching iron (not wood) for good luck, not toasting with water, and never pouring wine with your left hand.