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Dec 17, 2014 10:31 AM

Verona's Arena to get $17.5 million restoration

The Associated Press

MILAN (AP) Verona's famed Roman amphitheater, home to one of the world's premier opera festivals, will be the first large beneficiary of a new Italian government initiative to encourage private donations to protect cultural treasures.

Italian bank Unicredit and the nonprofit foundation CariVerona signed a deal Wednesday with Verona's mayor to restore the arena at a cost of 14 million euros ($17.5 million).

The project aims to secure the open-air Verona Arena, the third-largest Roman-era amphitheater to survive antiquity, against infiltration from rain, which has damaged the seating areas, stairs and modern-day infrastructure like the electrical system.

The deal falls under the government's Art Bonus initiative adopted this year that gives donors a 65-percent tax credit.

Other programs include the restoration of paintings at Milan's Pinacoteca Brera picture gallery, spearheaded by the Italian Stock Exchange, for a total below 500,000 euros, according to the Culture Ministry. There is also a crowd-funding effort under way to restore the Domos Aurea, a villa built by Emperor Nero in the heart of ancient Rome.

With state funding to culture shrinking due to Italy's recession, Verona Mayor Flavio Tosi praised the Art Bonus program, saying that public resources "would never be sufficient to maintain treasures like ours."

The arena is one of Verona's biggest tourist attractions and the venue for its famed summer opera festival. Some 1.5 million people enter the monument each year.

Tosi said the restoration work is expected take three years.

The mayor has another, more controversial project, in his sights: adding a roof to the first-century structure. Tosi said he was awaiting approval from the culture ministry to solicit proposals.


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