After heavy foot traffic, the iconic landmark has been beautifully restored.
Rome reopened its famous Spanish Steps on Thursday after a $1.7-million renovation and a controversial statement from one of the landmark’s funders.
Earlier this month, Paolo Bulgari, chairman of his family’s luxury jewelry brand, told Italian newspaper La Repubblica that he was worried “the steps will go back to being used as a camping site for barbarians” once they are revealed to the public. He added that a plexiglass barrier or gate didn’t seem like bad ideas.
In a press conference on Thursday, Rome’s mayor Virgina Raggi dismissed the idea, saying, “We don’t want to close off the city. It is fundamental to allow people to use Rome’s cultural heritage assets.”
Rome police will now monitor the landmark more closely, Raggi said.
Over the years, heavy foot traffic and tourism wore down the Spanish Steps. The renovations began in October, and over the past 11 months workers scrubbed the 135 steps, pulled weeds from between cracks, and installed a new drainage system and video surveillance.
The last restoration of the steps was in 1995. They were built in the early 18th century and became world famous in conjunction with the film “Roman Holiday,” starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck. In recent years, they also became known as a hotbed for homelessness, late-night drinking and litter.
Bulgari funded some of the steps’ restoration as part of a government tax break plan and in honor of the brand’s 130th birthday. Several other Italian brands, like Tod’s and Fendi also funded restorations at iconic Italian landmarks as part of the government program.
This piece originally appeared on TravelAndLeisure.com.