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Rome seeks foreign money to restore cultural artifacts

| Monday, June 9, 2014, 9:18 p.m.

ROME — Rome's mayor met with a group of foreign diplomats on Monday in an effort to raise about $271 million to help restore some of the eternal city's most neglected artifacts.

Mayor Ignazio Marino told the assembled diplomats from around the world that Rome's cultural treasures should be considered heritage “for all mankind” and asked for their help in starting a foundation to manage cultural sites.

The foundation would oversee the cataloguing of 100,000 boxes of excavated Roman-era artifacts and restore the unkempt gladiator training grounds next to the Colosseum, among many other projects on the mayor's wish list.

“There are so many archaeological findings, we can't even keep them all in a closed space,” he said.

The initiative is the latest in a string of efforts to seek outside funding for conservation in Rome and other cities amid economic troubles in Italy.

In recent years, Italian luxury companies such as Tod's, Fendi and Bulgari have stepped in, donating large sums to restore top attractions in Rome. Leather goods maker Tod's has pledged the largest contribution, putting $34 million toward restoring the Colosseum.

In 2009, former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi took leaders of the Group of Eight countries on a tour of earthquake-hit monuments in L'Aquila, encouraging them to help pay for restorations.

Marino said he had already had “serious discussions” with people from Azerbaijan, the United States and Saudi Arabia, who he said have shown support for the new project.

British ambassador Christopher Prentice also expressed support, but warned “there are many examples of places where money was committed by European funds where there is no apparent activity or result out of it.”

Others said they were worried about Italy's reputation for public waste. They noted that Pompeii has suffered from chronic mismanagement and corruption issues.

Marino said he was hoping to secure funds from private companies and investors “with an interest in cultural heritage.” He said he was inspired by the involvement of the private sector in conservation in the United States.

“In the U.S., a lot of people donate money because they believe it's the right thing to do,” he said with a smile.

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