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Rialto Bridge restoration soon underway

Divers make preparatory cleaning underwater

25 September, 19:43
Rialto Bridge restoration soon underway (ANSA) - Venice, September 25 - Preparations have begun to restore Venice's famed Rialto Bridge, with divers cleaning submerged foundations and looking for possible underwater damage. The five-million-euro project is being overseen by the OTB holding company, which belongs to founder and owner of the Diesel clothing brand Renzo Rosso. An estimated 20 million tourists trample Venice's ancient pavement every year, inevitably taking a toll on the 400-year-old Rialto Bridge, which for centuries was the only foot passage from one side of the Grand Canal to the other.

In 2011 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.

Calls for donors have become increasingly common across the country as city budgets have been cut amid Italy's economic crisis.

In 2011 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.

The most visible example is perhaps 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.

The Rialto restoration is scheduled to last 18 months.