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Originally published Tuesday, January 29, 2013 at 2:00 PM

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Rome’s Trevi Fountain getting a major facelift

Fashion house Fendi, which will pay for the restoration, is the latest Italian fashion company to come to the rescue of Italy’s eternally underfunded cultural sites.

Associated Press

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ROME — Rome’s 18th-century Trevi Fountain, famed as a setting for the film “La Dolce Vita,” is getting a $2.9 million restoration courtesy of the Fendi fashion house.

The 20-month project on one of the city’s most iconic fountains was unveiled at a city hall news conference featuring Fendi designers Karl Lagerfeld and Silvia Venturini Fendi, who said the project combined a love of Rome’s past with a need to preserve its future.

It’s the latest example of Italian fashion companies coming to the aid of Italy’s chronically underfunded cultural heritage. The founder of the Tod’s footwear company is footing the bill for the nearly $34 million restoration of Rome’s ancient Colosseum, and Mayor Gianni Alemanno said he hoped these two donations were just the start.

“Without similar initiatives, we won’t be able to save the cultural memory of our country,” Alemanno said Monday.

Fendi is also donating $430,000 to restore another fountain complex in Rome, the Quattro Fontane.

The landmark Trevi Fountain is a must-see on any tourist itinerary. It was famously featured in Federico Fellini’s 1960 movie “La Dolce Vita,” with Anita Ekberg seductively splashing in the fountain’s waters and calling out to leading man Marcello Mastroianni.

Many visitors flip a coin into the fountain: Tradition says that doing so ensures a prompt return to the Eternal City.

The Trevi restoration involves a complete overhaul of the fountain, including cleaning the travertine facade and marble statues, replacing the gilded Latin inscriptions and re-waterproofing the main basin. The project will be carried out in phases, with the central section restored first, then the sides, then the top. At no time will it be closed to visitors, and officials said a screen bearing the image of the fountain will cover the scaffolding in a bid to minimize the eyesore for camera-toting tourists.

The restoration is expected to completed by 2015.

The fountain, which was built between 1732 and 1762, features Oceanus being carried on his chariots and contains many other allegorical references to water. The location of the fountain itself — on a side street off central Rome’s main thoroughfare — is the termination of one of ancient Rome’s aqueducts, the Aqua Virgo Aqueduct.

Alemanno stressed that the only reference to Fendi’s sponsorship will be a small plaque near the fountain identifying Fendi as responsible.

Silvia Venturini Fendi said the firm, which her family founded in 1925 in Rome, wanted to give something back to the city and noted that she and her sisters had previously published a book on Roman fountains.

“For Romans, water is inspiration,” she said.

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