A few years ago, I wrote a post on the search for someone to hand over 25 million Euros for the restoration of the famous Colosseum in Rome. Luckily someone has come forward with the capital: Diego della Valle, CEO of Tod’s, the luxury shoe manufacturer.
Della Valle is a native Italian with lots of pride for his homeland. “I’m someone who has had enormous luck in life and when I could give back, I did,” says Della Valle. “This is a monument that not only belongs to Italy’s patrimony but the entire world.” The project began last December and will take about 5 years to complete. So far, they have begun by removing the soot caused by dust and smog almost 2000 years old. The travertine stone has been blasted with water at low pressure to reveal the true ochre and red colors of the original Roman stone. So far, they have cleaned 14 of the 80 or so pillars. Once this first phase is done, they will continue by reattaching broken fragments and fortifying them with mortar. The iron bars that dot the surface will be repaired and the metal rails will be replaced with newly forged iron gates. A tourist center and café will be built underground in front of the Colosseum’s entrance and lastly, in the Colosseum’s cellar, where roaring animals and sword-wielding gladiators were once detained, the brick walls will be restored.
The bidding for the project began in 2010 and the two final contenders were Tod’s and Ryanair! It’s a good thing that Ryanair did not win the bid because it intended to wrap the monument in advertising banners! Now that would have been a sight for sore eyes!
Surprisingly enough, this seemingly generous donation elicited a huge controversy headed by the Italian consumer protection organization, Codacons because they disagreed with Tod’s having use of the Colosseum for preapproved corporate events. Seems to me that if someone is being generous enough to hand over 25 million Euros they should be allowed a little bit of appreciation – a few private corporate events doesn’t seem like much to ask for! Much better than advertising banners everywhere! This stupid controversy delayed the project for over 2 years, with all those millions just sitting unused, until the courts dismissed the case due to a technicality. Della Valle wasn’t phased by this, but he did state “…I do believe that something as simple as, ‘I want to give you money, let’s spend it’ shouldn’t be so difficult. My idea was always to use this [donation] as a restart. The country is having problems right now. But there is a lot of will and desire to do things. All that’s needed is to show people that things can happen and how to do it. I see it as an obligation. Italians who have had success and luck in life should give back to their country.”
This philosophy has elicited a positive response from several other notable Italian companies: Fendi will be restoring the Trevi Fountain and Diesel will take on Venice’s Rialto Bridge. Thankfully, there are these very generous patrons who value the rich historical significance of these extraordinary masterpieces and are willing to come to their rescue.