Rome has unveiled the most drastic facelift for the Trevi Fountain in its 252-year history, the latest in a series of privately-funded restorations to Italy's prized landmarks.
The stone rendering of Tritons guiding the shell chariot of water god Oceanus will be cleaned and new pumps, artistic lighting and barriers to deter pigeons will be installed in the €2.2 million (HK$23.3 million) project over the next 16 months.
Water has already stopped flowing at the fountain site, which marks the end of an aqueduct said to have carried "Virgin Water" to thirsty ancient Romans, to allow the work.
The project is being sponsored by luxury fashion house Fendi, whose chief executive, Pietro Beccari, said the group was spurred to fund the project partly by its links with Rome.
"We can give back to the city something of what it has given us over the years in terms of inspiration, beauty, art and culture ... at a time when Italy needs positive gestures and people to do things and talk less," Beccari said.
The last major restoration was about 25 years ago, but new techniques make this the most thorough in the fountain's history.
A transparent barrier has been set up around the perimeter and a footbridge over the basin allows visitors to see the work and get closer to the structure.
Many visitors groaned when they arrived at the Trevi piazza to see the facade, which covers one side of the Palazzo Poli, encased in scaffolding. But some conceded the work was necessary.
"It has to be done, so you can't get upset over it," said Bobby Norby, a 43-year-old former soldier from California. "How many structures in the world have been around this long?"
Across Italy, a dearth of public funds to restore historical sites has prompted the country's entrepreneurs to step in.
Shoemaker Tod's is paying to restore the Colosseum and jeweller Bulgari the Spanish Steps. In Venice, Diesel jeans founder Renzo Rosso is paying to spruce up the Rialto bridge in return for using it as advertising space.
Defence group Finmeccanica has pledged staff and technology worth up to €2 million to a project to prop up the crumbling town of Pompeii, which was covered in volcanic ash in 79 AD.
Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse