Without doubt more than elsewhere, the link between the great Italian fashion houses and the cities that gave birth to them is deeply visceral. And this reciprocity very often gives rise to large-scale cultural projects which serve to explain or poignantly develop this connection.
Indeed, there is the Fondazione Prada in Milan, the Gucci and Ferragamo museums in Florence… and above all FendiRome’s admirable commitment to preserving Rome’s historic monuments – including the Trevi Fountain in 2015. The most recent was the just completed restoration of the sacred temple of Venus and Rome, a joint project with the Colosseum archaeological park. The work actually started in September 2020, when Italy was plunged into the second wave of the COVID crisis, and fear prevailed above all. But with the present so overwhelmed by uncertainty and anxiety, what better diversion than to instead focus on the richness of its local history – especially in the Eternal city, where we are surrounded by the said story every day.
The structure itself was / is unique in that it was constructed using avant-garde Roman town planning and construction techniques, while having distinctly Hellenistic proportions and spatiality. Dating back to 135 AD, it was completed during the reign of Emperor Hadrian, whose architectural heritage was perhaps the richest of all the rulers of ancient Rome (including Tivoli, the Pantheon and of course the Hadrian’s Wall.) The ingenious configuration found more than 200 columns of gray granite and Proconnesio marble enveloped a single rectangular volume, with a cult cell dedicated to Venus Felix, goddess of nature and mother of Aeneas, and the another dedicated to the goddess Roma Eterna, sacred personification of the city. The first faces the Colosseum, the second the Capitol.
The director of the Parco archeologico del Colosseo Alfonsina Russo explains: “Thanks to this collaboration, we reach a very high moment of synthesis of the Italian identity focused on the charm and the beauty of places and monuments which dialogue harmoniously with contemporary creativity. Thanks to Fendi, the largest known temple of ancient Rome has regained its former glory.
The occasion is also marked by the publication of a commemorative volume entitled Il Tempio di Venere and Roma, from Florence-based publisher Electa. It is full of striking images of the construction project itself, and even some stunning realizations. Fendi fashion shows organized in the field.
“This site holds special memories for me and for so many others around the world”, enthuses the artistic director of Fendi. Silvia Venturini Fendi. “The Palatine Hill and its surroundings are at the very heart of our Roman mythology – it is the spiritual cradle of our city and a site of great historical importance. You can feel it in the air, and as the sun sets over the temple of Venus and Rome on the edge of Velia hill in the evening; there is a moment when time stands still and the hum of modern life fades into the background.
And given the ruthless dismantling of history that is the result of so much urban overdevelopment in the 21st century, the continued reverence for Rome’s historic treasures is not commendable, but nothing short of exacting.