The Associated Press December 2, 2010, 3:06PM ET

Italy: Shoe 'king' offering euro25M to help Colosseum

Italy's shoe "king" said Thursday time is running out for Italy's government to accept his offer of euro25 million ($33 million) for the restoration of the Colosseum.

Diego Della Valle and his Tod's shoe business turned out to be the only ones to respond to the pitch made last summer by the Italian culture ministry for private sponsors to help the ancient Roman arena, which is blackened by pollution and rocked by vibrations from a nearby subway line.

One of Italy's most prominent businessmen, Della Valle said he offered the funds several months ago to the mayor and culture minister, and was hoping to hear back from the officials by the end of the year.

"We're a company that's quoted on the stock market. Within the year we should put this euro25 million on the balance sheets," Della Valle said.

A Rome culture official, Umberto Broccoli, described the Colosseum project as "new, complex and multifaceted," and indicated bureaucratic procedures must be followed before the restoration can begin, the Italian news agency ANSA reported.

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.

Della Valle urged officials to let him get on with the job.

"I would like to show that we Italians know how to do things for our country. We hope that they'll let us do it," Della Valle said, calling the Colosseum "one of the symbols of Italy best known in the world."

Della Valle said that it's important to get to work soon on the Colosseum so Italy doesn't risk "another Pompeii." He was referring to recent collapses of ancient houses and walls in the archaeological ruins near Naples.

The arena where gladiators once entertained bloodthirsty crowds is well monitored, and experts say there is no imminent danger of collapse.

Still, a few months ago, some chunks of mortar fell off the Colosseum before the monument was opened to tourists. No one was injured.


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