Fendi to fund Trevi Fountain repairs in Rome

Italian fashion house Fendi on Monday said it will finance a renovation of Rome's famous Trevi Fountain, becoming the latest luxury group to fund repairs to priceless heritage in times of austerity.

"It's a great idea, a great project! It is a symbol of Rome, like the Colosseum or St Peter's (Basilica)," Fendi's German-born artistic director Karl Lagerfeld told a press conference in the city.

The 2.12 million euro ($2.85 million) repairs on the nearly 300-year-old fountain will be finished by 2015, Rome's city hall and Fendi said in a note.

Lagerfeld, who has been with Fendi since 1965, told AFP: "My motto in life is: 'Whoever has the money pays'. It's as simple as that."

"Fashion has money because things are going amazingly, like never before, in other parts of the world. So Rome should benefit," he said.

The 79-year-old designer, who is also a celebrated photographer, said he would be publishing a book on the fountains of Rome that will feature some of his daguerreotypes -- an antique type of photograph.

"The restoration of the Trevi Fountain demonstrates the importance of public-private collaboration," Rome mayor Gianni Alemanno told reporters.

Alemanno said the economic crisis in Italy created "a need for a new cultural philanthropy".

The "Fendi for Fountains" project will also include funding to restore Quattro Fontane, late Renaissance fountains gracing each corner of a busy intersection which are blackened with soot.

Fendi, which was founded as a leather goods business in Rome in the 1920s and is now part of French luxury giant LVMH, said it felt "a deep bond with the Eternal City".

Under the deal with Rome city authorities, Fendi's logo can be displayed on building site signs during the repairs and the company can hang a plaque near the monuments for four years after completion.

There has been concern about the state of the Trevi Fountain, which is visited by millions of tourists every year, particularly after bits of its elaborate cornice began falling off last year following a particularly harsh winter.

Emergency repairs cost 320,000 euros, and a survey of the monument found that more critical work was needed, prompting a cash-strapped city hall to appeal to large companies and donors for funding.

The Trevi Fountain, commissioned by Pope Clement XII in 1730, is the end point of one of the ancient aqueducts that supplied Rome with water.

It famously featured in a scene of Federico Fellini's iconic film "La Dolce Vita" in which Marcello Mastroianni and co-star Anita Ekberg share a kiss while wading through its pristine waters.

Tourists believe their luck will improve if they throw a coin into the fountain with their back turned to it.

Spending cuts in tough economic times have hit cultural budgets particularly hard in Italy, forcing managers to seek private funding.

The Trevi restoration comes after Diesel jeans founder Renzo Rosso took on the five-million-euro cost of renovating the Rialto Bridge in Venice, and shoe billionaire Diego Della Valle has offered 25 million euros for a clean-up of the Colosseum.

Italy supports the injection of private funding to preserve heritage, but new laws allowing this have angered some conservationists who fear that the monuments will be used for advertising purposes.

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