Interview: Italy's cultural heritage falling down because of neglect: expert

09:14, December 17, 2010      

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Some of Italy's historical monuments and sites are unfortunately crumbling to pieces because of a persisting neglect and a general attitude which leads to ignoring the rich cultural heritage of the country, an expert told Xinhua in an interview.

"Paradoxically it's a cultural matter: we have so many historical sites to preserve that we tend to forget the richness we have even if it lies beneath our eyes," said Roberto Bruni, an historian and founder of an association that spreads awareness on Italy's most important historical periods.

"The problem of conserving and preserving in the best ways possible monuments and locations is continuously postponed. And this is a real tragedy because on top of the human carelessness, there are also other external factors like the bad weather which further jeopardize the integrity of Italy's immense cultural patrimony," he explained.

It has been a bad year for Italy's top tourist attractions.

Last month, three awful collapses occurred in the world famous archaeological site of Pompeii. First the famous Gladiators' Room, one of the most well-kept and frescoed parts of the area, fell to the ground. Then an external garden wall in the House of the Moralist came down, followed the day after by the collapse of other two walls, one of them inside the so-called "Small Brothel," usually closed to the public.

These structures in Pompeii practically disintegrated because of a mortal blend: a long-lasting neglect of the central and local authorities responsible of maintaining the archaeological area, water infiltration due to seasonal heavy rains and imprisoned wall humidity, stressed Bruni.

To avoid future similar incidents, the Culture Ministry is working on the creation of a special foundation which will preserve and valorize the site, constantly monitoring its state. The foundation will be jointly run by public and private bodies, as for other important monuments in Italy such as Turin's Egyptian Museum.

But the problem is far from being solved. Bruni said he agreed on the need to open up to private sponsors in preserving monuments and sites, so long as it would not turn into a mere "commercial spot activity."

Pompeii was not alone in terms of damage. Several weeks ago one of the external turret walls of the majestic, medieval stone castle of Combiano near the city of Parma in northern Italy, which is partially exploited as a luxury resort center, crumbled because of neglect and rain. The local authorities have already allocated some 300 million euros (about 396.9 million U.S. dollars) to rebuild it but more resources are needed.

"Monuments don't collapse in one single day, all of a sudden," said the expert. "It takes much more time. They suffer a long degradation primarily depending upon human neglect. It's the decades-long human carelessness that yields in time disastrous outcomes. Then, of course, the rain and weather deal the heavy, final blow and the unstable historical sites crumble to pieces."

Bruni believes the best way to defend Italy's cultural patrimony is to "fight on a daily base to spread awareness and knowledge on Italy's past history and thus destroy oblivion."

The historian has spent his entire life studying and informing the public of Rome's nationalist revival that led to the country's unification in the 19th Century thanks to the fundamental role played by a group of poor, young boys that liberated the city from foreigners sacrificing their lives. His association, called " Righetto's Friends", is dedicated to the memory of one of these brave youngsters.

"The magnificent statues of Giuseppe Garibaldi, the revolutionary hero who unified Italy, are falling to pieces and no one seems to care. But this is outrageous because it's part of our collective memory", Bruni said.

Source: Xinhua
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