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
News
peopleJonathan Ross has got a left-field suggestion to replace Clarkson
News
Johnny Depp is perhaps best known for his role as Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean
peopleBut how did he break it?
Arts and Entertainment
The teaser trailer has provoked more questions than answers
filmBut what is Bond's 'secret' that Moneypenny is talking about?
Sport
footballDoes Hodgson's England team have an identity yet?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Sport
Lewis Hamilton secured his second straight pole of the season
f1Vettel beats Rosberg into third after thunderstorm delays qualifying
Travel
travel Dreamland Margate, Britain’s oldest amusement park, is set to reopen
News
news
News
Founders James Brown and Tim Southwell with a mock-up of the first ever ‘Loaded’ magazine in 1994
media
News
Threlfall says: 'I am a guardian of the reality keys. I think I drive directors nuts'
people
Voices
voices The group has just unveiled a billion dollar plan to help nurse the British countryside back to health
News
The Westgate, a gay pub in the centre of Gloucester which played host to drag queens, has closed
news
  • 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: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: New Lift Sales Executive - Lift and Elevators

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A challenging opportunity for a...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss