The ‘Made in Italy’ label saves the Colosseum as Tod’s Group devises restoration of one of the world’s most celebrated monuments
As one of the most popular and frequented destinations worldwide and a undisputable symbol of Roman civilization, the Colosseum has always managed to impress. Try watching the sunset of a gentle Roman October or walking to Circus Maximus with the sun illuminating the Arch of Constantine and the Roman Forum. It’s impossible not to be moved by a display that has been taking place for almost two thousand years: white stones catching the pink glow of light cast from a Roman sky. Located in the heart of the ‘Eternal City’, the Colosseum–also known as the Flavian Amphitheatre –was built in the first century AD by emperors of the Flavian Dynasty. It owes its name to a colossal statue of Nero that once stood nearby. To celebrate its inauguration in 80 AD, Roman Emperor Titus Vespasian organised festivities that lasted one hundred days.
The Colosseum is the largest amphitheatre in the world. For the first five centuries following its construction, it seated up to seventy thousand people for free shows that were almost always organized by the emperor himself. These included hunts, gladiatorial combat, naval battles and trained animals exhibitions juxtaposed with fierce death sentences, during which the condemned were publicly torn to pieces by wild beasts.
After a long period of decline–during which time the arena was converted into a fortress–quarry materials were stored for the construction of new palaces. The Renaissance established the Colosseum as a place of Christian martyrdom–a tradition that has never been proven; and its sacred reputation was established in 1750 when Pope Benedict XIV constructed the fifteen niches of the Via Crucis. The tradition survives today, and on the night of Good Friday every year, full television coverage is given to the Pope and a large following of locals and tourists.
But today the Colosseum is worn and dingy; and it struggles to absorb the impact of some five million visitors annually, about thirteen thousand every day. Enter Tod’s Group, one of the world’s leading Italian brands of luxury shoes.
A restoration project was launched in 2010 that in an initial phase established procedures, examined feasibility and approved operating plans. Two milestone events took place: a reopening, after more than forty years, of the third level, or highest point of observation, and premiere access to the eastern part of the underground, or hidden heart of the amphitheatre. A new Intervention Plan was requested by the Deputy Commissioner of Archaeological Sites of Rome, in agreement with the City’s Superintendent for Archaeological Heritage, and was funded in full by Tod’s. The Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Activities (IMCAA) in conjunction with the City of Rome decided to pump funding into the completion of the Colosseum project. Tod’s Group’s all-inclusive 25 million Euro contribution underwrites Made in Italy production that labours to safeguard Italian culture and national identity.
As a patron project, it will have no economic, advertising or commercial return for the Group. Tod’s is a brand representative for the Made in Italy concept, but also seeks to protect and promote the Colosseum, a monument which Tod’s says “belongs to everyone as a symbol of invaluable cultural heritage”.
Founder Diego Della Valle personifies the Italian entrepreneur who has managed to fulfil a dream of modest beginnings. The son of artisan shoemakers in Marche–Italy’s shoemaking district par excellence–Della Valle has long known a passion for excellence, underscored with national pride. When his father took over the small footwear company founded by his father at the beginning of the twentieth century, there were ten employees. The current CEO joined the family business in 1975 and brought its numbers to five-thousand worldwide.
Della Valle is passionate about preserving Italian culture, which he feels is both an irreplaceable resource and an asset to companies operating in Italy and abroad. “Tod’s is proud to support this project by contributing to a better conservation of one of Italy’s symbols in the world and to strengthen our culture abroad. I hope that this sponsorship will stimulate tourism towards our country, creating employment opportunities in a sector where we surely are undisputed world leaders and that it can be an incentive for many Italian and foreign companies who care about the wonders of our cultural and artistic heritage.”
The CEO’s involvement stems not only from a commitment to civic participation, but from his belief that investing in Made in Italy production, which promotes expertise, tradition and Italian culture, is the best way to incite competition, and thus provide further job opportunities to people who live and work in Italy; to those who appreciate its history and tradition. It is the group’s hope that other companies, philanthropists and promoters of Italian culture and monuments will follow suit; and that this would be the beginning of a series of similar initiatives to further Italy’s global image. Tod’s Group also supports the Amici del Colosseo, a not-for-profit which promotes project awareness and socially-oriented initiatives aimed at attracting people of all ages to the monument. Restoration plans include the removal of bars that currently close off the side arches and the restoration of the northern and southern facades, as well as the walkways and dungeons. Existing installations will also be brought into compliance with safety regulations.
Over twenty-four thousand square meters will be cleaned to remove the damage done by pollution and to return the travertine stone slabs to their original hue, as agreed upon by the Superior Institute for Conservation and Restoration (ISCR) of the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities (MiBAC). Hydraulic spraying will be done at room temperature, using atmospheric pressure devoid of solvents or other substances to avoid even the slightest damage to the monument. The system is capable of removing dust deposits, dissolving the brick of black crust, without altering the unique patina left over time. Ten specialized STYLE operators and restorers will work together simultaneously on each area. The tourist flow through the monument has also been redesigned to be more efficient and traffic-friendly.
A new service centre will be constructed on the south side of the ruin, near the Arch of Constantine. The new 1,600 square meter structure designed as a large, circular, thirty-foot space will house the ticket office currently operating inside the Colosseum, along with a reception desk, gift shop and visitor’s centre, with a space for a coffee house in typical Roman fashion. Work began after the Gherardi Company took on the project last July. According to technicians, restoration should be completed in less than three years – by March 2, 2016. Restorers are at work on the scaffolding, redesigning the site of Rome’s most visited monument. Slowly, carefully and with a precision that rivals their northern neighbours, teams of skilled artisans labour on the travertine, or ancient limestone, surface.
Tod’s intervention plan is a kind of prototype, a model for the preservation and enhancement of Italy’s extraordinary cultural heritage. With forty-nine UNESCO World Heritage sites, Italy boasts the largest number of culturally preserved destinations worldwide. Tod’s generosity will provide millions of tourists with an opportunity to finally appreciate and enjoy the Colosseum’s beauty.
Initiatives such as this one support cultural tourism, local economy and Italy’s image as a nation-curator of an artistic and monumental heritage–at the same time its greatest treasure and least exploited asset.
Up for a side trip?
A ninety minute drive north will get you to Lake Bolsena in northern Lazio for a charming weekend of quiet luxury. Swiss Style booked a night at Le Porcine, a B&B perched above the lake on twenty-two acres of family lands that boast their own olive groves.
Handed down through generations, the property’s stone buildings were recently turned into a haven for those seeking a rural but comfortable stay. Entrepreneur Enrico Menichetti designed and furnished the double rooms and luxury suite, travelling as far as Rome to bring home an upscale, shabby chic style. Independent apartments are under construction. A copious breakfast spread is served in a feeding trough-turned-bar, and vintage tables are set up beside open walls that let in the Viterbian sun. Setting off the tiled, well-kept pool area is an extensive wood deck overlooking rolling hills; these span out to meet a lakefront where history, art and sumptuous walks–not to mention slow food restaurants–are in easy reach.
The Farnese Palazzo in Caprarola is a perfect way to complete your tour of the Colosseum and Palazzo Farnese in Rome, which was commissioned by Cardinal Alessandro Farnese (later Pope Paul III) and built with materials from the arena. The Farnese dynasty is recognized as one of the most powerful in Italy, and their legacy extends well into the Lake Bolsena region.
The project was a risk for Menichetti, having invested heavily in renovations to create a luxury environment from the ground up. But with hospitality a mindset at Le Porcine and an attentive reception all-inclusive, his business continues to grow. With 97% of reviews on TripAdvisor giving a 5-star rating, this is one start-up you won’t want to miss. AZ
Article by Luca Della Libera & Allison Zurfluh
Photographers: Guido Gambardella & Allison Zurfluh