Rome finds creative solution to repairing its landmarks

Maintaining Rome's historic landmarks takes a lot more than "three coins in a fountain" and a lot more than the Italian government can afford, given recent economic woes.

So officials there have settled on a novel solution to their ancient problem: corporate sponsorship.

The only water flowing at the Trevi Fountain is across the street at a fruit vendor. The famous Roman landmark is shrouded in scaffolding.

"I was hoping I could throw a coin in," said Katherine Deorsey of Rhode Island.

"It's broken," Pietro Maggio, of Florida, tells her.

Broken, but being fixed, although it's not the city tossing its coins in. Instead, a well placed sign lets all who visit know Italian fashion house Fendi is picking up the tab.

"It reminds me of being back home," said Joe Deorsey, also from Rhode Island. "It's the next Target Center or Gillette Stadium."

In Rome, national treasures are getting a corporate makeover. And getting your name on a piece of history is as easy as logging online, picking from dozens of landmarks, and dropping a few million dollars.

It's part of Italy's so-called Art Bonus program, which allows businesses to pay for a landmark's repair in exchange for a 65 percent tax credit. The monuments will keep their names, but a courtesy plaque will be placed on their sides.

It didn't take long for tourist attractions like the Spanish steps to attract corporate sponsors. Luxury jewelry company Bulgari is spending nearly $2 million to fix the nearly 300-year-old staircase.

A few steps down the road, luxury shoe company Todd's is paying nearly $30 million to fix the Colosseum.

Rome's Colosseum undergoes renovation

Gladiators like Valentino DiLorenzo, who runs Rome's oldest gladiator school says he's grateful Todd's is stepping up, but he's angry that the government let it get to this state.

"If the government have no reason or money to give for the reconstruction of the Colosseum, it's not good for us," said DiLorenzo. "Because we have no good government in Italy."

But preserving the past comes at a cost. Italy has the most UNESCO heritage sites in the world and is already spending $140 million to fix the crumbling Pompeii. Hundreds of millions more are needed for the country's 49 other sites.

"That's the GDP of a small country in Eastern Europe," said Luca Desiata, who specializes in corporate/art partnerships and says the extent of repairs requires extreme measures.

"I don't want to think what would happen if these corporate sponsors weren't there," he said.

The scaffolding around the Trevi Fountain hasn't stopped tourists from snapping photos and making a wish, their coins hitting the dry fountain like an empty piggy bank.

Rome wasn't built in a day. And it won't be rebuilt on its own.