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Venice looks to restore Rialto Bridge

Donors wanted for multi-million-euro job

04 May, 15:49
Venice looks to restore Rialto Bridge (ANSA) - Venice, May 4 - Venice approved a study Friday into a proposed restoration of the Rialto Bridge. If deemed feasible, the plan would launch the first restoration of the historic bridge on the Grand Canal in over 30 years. "It would be a complete restoration," said Public Works Assessor Alessandro Maggioni. "It's been a long time coming for the city".

Restoration is estimated to take 18 months, due for completion in April 2015. An estimated 20 million tourists trample Venice's ancient pavement every year, inevitably taking a toll on the Rialto Bridge, a city icon that for centuries was the only foot passage from one side of the Grand Canal to the other. Last year a column on the bridge's railing collapsed, and some of the marble steps have begun to crack, one of which was dislodged last summer, closing down part of the bridge.

Maggioni said the restoration would cost an estimated five to seven million euros, money the crisis-stricken city hopes to find in the form of private sponsorships. Renzo Rosso, founder and owner of the Diesel clothing company based in the Veneto region, has long been rumored as an eager donor to restore the 400-year-old landmark, but so far no offer has been formalized.

Calls for donors have become increasingly common as city budgets have been cut amid Italy's economic crisis. Last year Diego Della Valle, the founder of the luxury leather goods brand Tod's, announced he was investing over 25 million euros in the three-year restoration of Rome's Colosseum, enlisting further help from the Italian business community to bankroll restoration and conservation plans elsewhere in the country in the absence of government support. High-end names from the fashion world such as Bulgari, Prada and Louis Vuitton are financing work on important palaces and religious monuments through Della Valle's Project Italia. Labelled a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, Venice's status as a cultural mecca is unparalleled, attracting a stream of luxury tycoons in recent years eager to lend their names and their pocketbooks to the city's long list of necessary repairs.

The most visible example is French luxury-fashion mogul Francois Pinault, owner of such lines as Gucci, Balenciaga and Stella McCartney.

Pinault made a splash in the Venice lagoon with the purchase of Palazzo Grassi, followed by the acquisition and restoration of the landmark Punta della Dogana, both of which house his personal art collection as well as featuring major exhibitions.

Other fashion labels restoring sites in Venice include Bulgari, Replay and Palazzetti, in addition to Prada and Benetton who have recently bought palaces on the Grand Canal for private use.

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