However, some of these projects have drawn criticism that Italy is “selling out” its heritage to these corporations. Although these private sponsors provide much-needed cash to protect Italy’s cultural treasures, the companies also receive an enormous benefit through the prime advertising locations they then receive. To the chagrin of locals and tourists, some famous landmarks have essentially become billboards for their wealthy corporate patrons.
Some believe that this type of advertising desecrates well-known places and tourist attractions. In particular, the restoration of the Rialto Bridge infuriated pundits: The iconic bridge became a billboard for OTB brands during the Venice Biennale in 2015. Now companies outside of Italy are being wooed for donations as well; Italy is appealing to Chinese corporations
to invest in the Mediterranean nation’s preservation efforts.
LoveItaly! offers an alternative to the crumbling or corporatization of Italy’s cultural heritage sites. Through the non-profit organization’s platform, the public itself can fund restoration and preservation. “Culture has to be lived, understood and shared with all,” said LoveItaly! president, Richard Hodges, of its mission to bring more private individuals into the preservation process.
Founded in 2014, LoveItaly! works with other non-profit organizations, arts institutions, scholars, and government agencies. Collaborating with these entities provides the group with access to high-quality and high-profile projects, such as the four initiatives in Rome and Pompeii that they are currently raising funds
to support. LoveItaly! also works directly with the Italian superintendency, allowing the nonprofit to raise funds, which the Italian government pays directly to restoration teams.
One of the organization’s major success stories
is the restoration of a Roman Imperial-Age sarcophagus in the National Gallery of Ancient Art in the Corsini Palace in Rome. The project was undertaken by first-year students at the National Institute for Conservation and Restoration (ISCR) in Rome. The Sarcophagus of Thiasus Marino was in desperate need of conservation, and through LoveItaly!’s campaign, the relic was cleaned and restored to its former glory.
However, the project went beyond mere fundraising. The restoration artists were interviewed for television programs and newspapers. And they used social media to communicate about the progress of their work on the sarcophagus. This type of communication helps to spread knowledge about the project to the public, an important part of LoveItaly!’s mission.