ROME (Reuters) - The Italian eyewear group Luxottica will pay to restore and maintain the only wooden bridge over Venice’s Grand Canal, becoming the latest in a string of private companies to put money into Italy’s fragile landmarks.
The Ray Ban maker has pledged 1.7 million euros ($1.85 million) to renovate the 48-metre Ponte dell’Accademia, which crosses from the lagoon city’s main island to its south bank.
Vittorio Zappalorto, Venice’s special commissioner since its mayor resigned in a corruption scandal last year, said the work had been planned for some time on the bridge, which was built in 1932.
“Finally, thanks to this generous donation, it will now be possible to go ahead with the work necessary to give back one of Venice’s iconic monuments not just to the city, but to the world,” Zappalorto said in a statement.
Across Italy, a dearth of public funds to restore the historical and cultural sites that draw in tourists has prompted entrepreneurs to step in and save them from collapse.
Just a water taxi ride down the Grand Canal, the Rialto bridge is under renovation in a project paid for by Diesel jeans founder Renzo Rosso.
The floating city demands particular care, as regular winter floods damage buildings. The wood and iron of the Ponte dell’Accademia, which some 8 million people cross each year, had decayed due to water stagnation.
Walls have collapsed at the ancient city of Pompeii and chunks have fallen off centuries-old fountains in recent years. The deterioration prompted the culture ministry to introduce tax breaks of up to 65 percent for investments in so-called cultural assets.
In Rome, shoemaker Tod’s is paying to restore the Colosseum, jeweller Bulgari the Spanish Steps, and fashion house Fendi the Trevi Fountain.
Reporting by Isla Binnie; Editing by Larry King