Bulgari-sponsored project causes disruption to local businesses.
Rome’s Scalinata della Trinità dei Monti, better known as the Spanish Steps, is set to undergo a €1.5-million restoration financed by luxury jeweller Bulgari.
Restoration of the steps was originally scheduled for March this year, with a completion date this autumn in time for the feast of the Immaculate Conception on 8 December, when the pope pays his traditional homage to the Virgin Mary at the foot of the 19th-century column in her honour in the nearby Piazza Mignanelli.
However the start of the project was delayed, meaning that the historic staircase will now be under scaffolding until the spring – and not finished in time for the Vatican's Holy Jubilee year whose launch coincides with the Immaculate Conception feast day on 8 December.
During the first phase of works, from mid-October until 7 December, the much-photographed monument will be covered by scaffolding. The city says that from 7 December onwards the steps will be partially opened to visitors via a ramp during the day.
The restoration involves cleaning and repairing the 136 travertine steps on the 18th century baroque-style stairway, which connects Piazza di Spagna with the Trinità dei Monti church above. The last major renovation of the popular tourist site took place in 1995.
Bulgari says the refurbishment, which was first announced a year and half ago, is a “special gift from Bulgari to its city” to mark its 130th anniversary. However the restoration, and the lack of clarity over its dates, has been a cause of annoyance to local businesses. The five-star Hotel Hassler, which is located at the top of the steps in Piazza Trinità dei Monti, says the works will cause major inconvenience to its customers.
The Keats-Shelley House, situated at the southern base of the steps, had planned urgent work to its roof after the original March-autumn dates given for the Bulgari sponsored restoration.
The maintenance to the museum, which houses an important collection of works by British Romantic poets, requires scaffolding and work had been due to start in November but now the museum may have to postpone it until the restoration of the Spanish Steps' is complete.
Bulgari, whose flagship store is on nearby Via dei Condotti, was sold by the Bulgari family to the French luxury giant LVMH in 2011.