ROME – The founder of Tod's luxury leather goods and shoes announced Friday that he will foot the euro25 million ($34 million) to restore the Colosseum.
The ancient Roman arena is blackened by pollution and rocked by vibrations from a nearby subway line.
Officials accepted Diego Della Valle's offer to sponsor the restoration. But Della Valle said he expected other entrepreneurs to also step in to help out as the project gets under way.
"A monument that represents Italy in the world must be restored, and a company that represents Made in Italy stepped forward to say, 'If you need us, we are here,'" Della Valle told a press conference.
Work is expected to begin at the end of the year, after contract bids are closed, and will take up to two and a half years. The monument will remain open to tourists during the restoration.
"It is the end of a nightmare," Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno said.
Italy is chronically short of funds to maintain, protect and clean Italy's artistic and archaeological heritage. The private sector, from energy companies to banks to mattress manufacturers, have sometimes lent a hand by sponsoring high-profile restorations for prestige and goodwill.
A few months ago, some chunks of mortar fell off the Colosseum before the monument was opened to tourists. No one was injured.