Clean-up operation: Tony Chambers on the restorative powers of Italian fashion

Clean-up operation: Tony Chambers on the restorative powers of Italian fashion

Last month saw two trips to Rome in seven days to witness the restorative powers of Italian fashion. First up was an inspection of Diego Della Valle’s colossal Colosseum clean-up. His luxury leather brand Tod’s, along with Rome’s Archaeological Heritage Department, has undertaken a mammoth project to return the landmark to its former glory. In five years, 13,300 sq m of façades have been given a facelift and new gates installed. Though more work on the underground areas and a new visitor centre is to come, the Colosseum is already looking more magnificent than in living memory. Diego’s big bash to celebrate the project began with an intimate performance by the Accademia Teatro alla Scala, featuring tenor Fabio Sartori and soprano Federica Lombardi, conducted by legendary orchestra director Zubin Mehta. An alfresco dinner followed, as the sun set and lights flooded the arena with the Italian tricolour.

A few days later, I was back for the 90th anniversary of Fendi. The fur house has spent the past three years making over the storied Trevi Fountain, and the evening marked its reopening – the immaculate marble and pristine waters playing host to an haute couture spectacular. A Plexiglas runway was suspended just inches above the fountain’s surface, so that the models appeared to walk on water. We were then whisked to the Terrazza del Pincio for a dinner with the finest views across the Eternal City – the perfect spot to dance the night away under the spell of Giorgio Moroder’s disco wand. 

During these two brief hops I also noticed that the Spanish Steps were being refurbished. Who was behind this? The glittering Roman jeweller Bulgari. On a trip to Venice in May for the Architecture Biennale, I noted that the Rialto Bridge is under renovation – with the financial support of Renzo Rosso’s Veneto-based Diesel brand. Milan’s Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is now gleaming after a facelift, an initiative pushed forward by Prada and Versace in unlikely coalition. Meanwhile, Florentine houses Ferragamo and Gucci have been busy restoring eight rooms at the Uffizi Gallery and a series of Renaissance tapestries respectively. With such fashionable, philanthropic friends, Italy’s architectural heritage seems safe and sound.

As originally featured in the September 2016 issue of Wallpaper* (W*210)

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