Luxury shoemaker raises $34 million to save Colosseum

Fri Jan 21, 2011 12:56pm EST
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By Silvia Aloisi

ROME (Reuters) - Luxury shoemaker Tod's will fund the restoration of Rome's Colosseum with a 25 million euro ($34 million) sponsorship campaign, the biggest to rescue Italy's crumbling archaeological treasures with private money.

"I won't put Tod's shoes on the Colosseum," the company's chief executive, Diego Della Valle, promised at a news conference when asked if huge advertising billboards would appear on the almost 2,000-year-old monument.

Officials said the branding will be discreet, such as relatively small placards at the base of the Colosseum recognizing Tod's as the sponsor. The company will also film the restoration and use it in its publicity.

The 80 A.D. Roman amphitheatre, which housed bloody public spectacles including gladiator fights, mock sea battles and animal shows, is one of the world's most famous monuments and attracts 6 million visitors each year.

But like other world-class archeological sites in Italy, it has suffered badly in recent years for lack of funds and proper upkeep, and the cash-strapped Italian government has decided to turn to the private sector.

"We wanted to make a gesture which said 'if the Colosseum needs to be restored, we are here'," Della Valle said. "An Italian company that has the luck of doing well and represents 'Made in Italy' ... decided to say 'thank you' to the country."

The urgency surrounding the monument was highlighted last May when chunks of mortar plunged through a protective netting.

Piero Meogrossi, the architect overseeing the restoration work, said the Colosseum has been getting 500,000 euros of public money a year for its upkeep, one tenth of what it needs.   Continued...

<p>Tod's Group president Diego Dalla Valle (L) poses with Italian Cabinet Undersecretary Gianni Letta at the ancient Colosseum in Rome January 21, 2011. REUTERS/Tony Gentile</p>