Rome wasn't rebuilt in a day: Mayor faces long and costly fight to make its ancient treasures traffic-free – so he's looking for sponsors

Ignazio Marino's plans dwarf those for the pedestrianisation of Trafalgar Square in London

As relentless traffic continues to bring the centre of Rome to a standstill, philanthropists across the world are being invited to fund a scheme by the city's mayor to pedestrianise the Via dei Fori Imperiali.

The left-wing Ignazio Marino has ambitious plans for Rome, and wants to shut out traffic once and for all from the glorious avenue that runs from Mussolini's Altar of the Fatherland to the Colosseum, via the ancient forums. It is to become an "archaeological park" from which Italy's more recent obsession, the automobile, is banished.

But while the need to preserve the capital's cultural heritage is not in doubt – Mr Marino's plans dwarf those for the pedestrianisation of Trafalgar Square in London – where the money is going to come from is less clear.

Experts have been warning for decades that Rome's relentless traffic is grinding its monuments to dust. "In my vision for the next 15 to 20 years, the birth of the archaeological park is the first step," said Mr Marino last week. "I'm not a chemist. But I listened carefully to the explanations of the experts on the damage suffered by Trajan's Column, the Colosseum and the Temple of Saturn."

Mr Marino is hoping for big donations from companies and even other countries. "I met three CEOs of multinational corporations," he told Corriere della Sera last week. He added that he had also received offers of support from Azerbaijan and the United Arab Emirates.

"If in Trenton, New Jersey, or in Sydney there is a billionaire [who wants to contribute], they are welcome," Mr Marino said. Perhaps optimistically, the Mayor wants their money but not their advertising or vulgar publicity. "I'm thinking about philanthropy," he said. "Certainly not sponsorship by big businessmen who then exploit images of this or that monument."

He contrasted his vision of fundraising with that organised for the Colosseum, which will take advertising from the leather goods label Tod's in exchange for the €25m needed to restore the monument.

Given the Italian state's seeming inability or unwillingness to care for its heritage – despite the lucrative tourism it brings – many observers feel private sponsorship is the way ahead, not only for Rome, but for precious sites across the country.

Il Sole 24 Ore, Italy's business newspaper, said in 2010 that the solution for crumbling Pompeii was a private sponsor, which should be allowed to place its logos at the entrance. "Precisely because it belongs to all humanity, its management should be taken away from a state that has shown itself incapable of protecting it," the newspaper said.

It is not clear to what extent Mr Marino's plans are grounded in reality. Critics have pointed out that on-the-hoof urban planning announcements are a welcome distraction from the public transport scandal enveloping the city. Investigators claim that city officials, described by Mr Marino as "worse than the Mafia", colluded in a scam that has poured €70m a year, made from forged bus and metro tickets, into slush funds.

Antiquities might not be the only benefactors were Rome's principal central avenue permanently pedestrianised. More Romans might wake up to the possibility of cycling rather than using cars or buses. Cyclists who brave the Via dei Fori Imperiali currently risk being clipped by speeding taxis, particularly at the narrow Colosseum-end of the road. Romans are, like most Italians, car lovers: three times as many own vehicles compared with Londoners.

Partial and temporary road closures have proved popular with tourists. "We will have a place where people can bike, walk, enjoy this incredible archaeological site," Mr Marino said. "We need to give this place back to the entire planet."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Service Engineers - Doncaster / Hull

£27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Service Only Engineers are requ...

Recruitment Genius: Employability / Recruitment Adviser

£23600 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Employability Service withi...

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...