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Shame on Italy! PDF Print E-mail
Nov 07, 2010 at 09:29 PM
Image Neglect, in the end, will have its way and the scandalous neglect of the priceless ruins of the ancient city of Pompeii finally made itself felt this weekend with the collapse of the remains of the Domus (house)of the Gladiators. The Schola Armaturarum Juventis Pompeiani, its official name, was a military club where young gladiators trained and kept their weapons. It is located on Via dell'Abbondanza, the principle street of the city that was buried in the 79AD eruption of Vesuvius, so an alternative route has had to be planned for visitors to the site, one of the world's most popular, with something like 25 million tickets sold over the last year. The Domus's interior had not been accessible for some time, but at least it could be viewed from the outside.

Vesuvius eruption facsimile
The immediate cause of the collapse appears to have been the abundant rain of recent days but the real culprits are the Italian governments of the last 30 years coupled with what appears to be a general overall lack of generosity by Italian private money, the wealthy Italian individuals and companies that elsewhere (where admittedly they may get better tax incentives) have been more munificent. (Last year, total (TOTAL!!!!) donations to Italy's cultural patrimony from the Italian private sector amounted to a paltry 30 million euros).

For years now, archeologists and local politicians have been calling for the government to restore funds cut from the budget of the Culture Ministry and to deal with ongoing degradation of what may be one of the world's largest open-air museums, a site that has proved invaluable in understanding the history and customs of the Roman empire. This is not the first time parts of Pompeii have been damaged because of lack of protection from the weather or from over eager visitors. Many custodians frequently do not show up for work; the site is not kept clean; and tourists are assailed by unauthorized guides.

«All of us must see what has occurred at Pomepi as an embarrassment for Italy", Italian president Giorgio Napolitano said on Sunday, adding that those who are responsible for supplying explanations for what happened should do so immediately "and without hypocrisy". He did not name names but for many the finger points directly at Sandro Bondi, Minister of Culture. Opposition politicians today called for his resignation but Bondi insists the blame must be laid on the shoulders of site's "inadequate" managers.

Here are some facts as supplied in an article today by Fabio Isman, a veteran journalist for Il Messaggero of Rome who has long been an expert on archaeological matters.

---For the last two years, Pompeii has been managed by a Commissioner representing the Department of Civil Protection who is not an archaeologist.
---Over the last three years, the funds of the Culture Ministry have been reduced by a third; over the last seven years, by 80 percent.                                                                                                                                   
-------The last time the Domus (which like much of the site had been damaged by war-time bombs) was restored was in 1947 when restoration of ancient sites made use of concrete supports, something which today is considered dangerous, because of concrete's weight.                                                                                                      --------Following the 1980 earthquake in Irpinia, the area surrounding Vesuvius, experts examined Pompeii piece by piece and concurred that 200 billion lire (about $240 million) was necessary just to stabilize the situation. No more than 10 percent of that has been set aside for the site over the years, according to experts quoted by Isman.

Furthermore, the Culture Ministry is also unable to invest in manpower. Currently, the average age of its employees is 53 and there are no plans for new entrance exams. Once, says Isman, the staff of the ministry was the envy of much of the world. Today,uch of that experience has been lost and Pompeii may well be just the first of a series of other disasters just waiting to happen. So, once again. Shame on Italy.



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