The famous Spanish steps from the film Roman Holiday, which starred Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck, were reopened on Sept. 22 after a $1.7 million renovation and a questionable statement from one of the landmark’s funders.
In early September, Paolo Bulgari, chairman of his family’s luxury jewelry brand told La Repubblica he was worried “the steps will go back to being used as a camping site for barbarians,” once the steps were open to the public again. He added it didn’t seem like a bad idea to add a plexiglass barrier or gate.
Virginia Raggi, Rome’s mayor, dismissed the idea at a press conference on Sept. 22 saying, “We don’t want to close off the city. It is fundamental to allow people to use Rome’s cultural heritage assets.” Raggi added that Rome police will monitor the landmark more closely.
Throughout the years, foot traffic by both locals and tourists wore down the Spanish steps. The 11-month renovation, beginning October of 2015, included workers pulling weeds between the cracks, scrubbing the 135 steps and installing a new drainage system and video surveillance.
The steps were built in the early 18th century and were last restored in 1995. Recently, the steps which climb between the Piazza di Spagna at the base and Piazza Trinità dei Monti, have turned to occupy homelessness, littering and late-night drinking.
In honor of Bulgari’s brand’s 130th birthday, Bulgari funded some of the steps’ renovations as part of a government tax break plan. Other Italian landmarks were supported for improvements as part of the government program by Italian brands such as Fendi and Tod’s.
Lauren Spiler is a freelance journalist based in Athens, Georgia, but most call her Spiler.