Billionaire: I Paid to Restore Spanish Steps, Now Stay Off

Benefactor Paolo Bulgari says people ruin the landmark with their slovenly habits
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 19, 2016 8:59 AM CDT
Billionaire Wants 'Barbarians' Kept Off Spanish Steps
Rome's municipal police officers patrol in front of the Spanish Steps in downtown Rome on July 16, 2008.   (AP Photo/Plinio Lepri)

Audrey Hepburn ate gelato on the Spanish Steps in Roman Holiday, which makes her one of the "barbarians"—the residents and tourists who've ruined the famous landmark over the years, per the billionaire benefactor who's paying for its makeover, NBC News reports. The steps, built nearly 300 years ago, are set to reopen this week after a $1.7 million, yearlong restoration, and Paolo Bulgari, who chairs the luxury jewelry company of the same name, offered the funds for the project in exchange for a government tax break. But visitors hanging out with their food, drink, and cigarettes have dirtied the steps, and Bulgari is dead set against that happening again, so he's suggesting a fence or see-through barrier be erected. "If we don't set strict rules, the steps will go back to being used as a camping site for barbarians," he told La Repubblica earlier in September.

Some agree with Bulgari, including one local business owner who tells the Telegraph that the "Spanish Steps are part of the whole world's heritage" and that a "non-invasive barrier" wouldn't be a terrible idea. A New Jersey tourist adds to NBC: "You wouldn't litter your house floor with food, why would you do that in such a beautiful place?" But others say congregating on the steps is part of the Rome experience and that there are better compromises that can be worked out, including more signs banning eating and drinking on the steps, surveillance cameras, and overnight guards. "They are steps, at the end of the day, and they should be used as such at all times," another American tourist says. (The rest of "dirty" Rome may need an overhaul, too.)

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