Construction Magnate Donates Millions To Restore Pompeii As UNESCO Criticises Italian Government
words by Carol King
Italian construction magnate Pietro Salini wants to donate €20 million to restore Pompeii.
Reuters news agency reports that Salini wants to donate funds to restore the archaeological site that has been damaged by weather, and has suffered from corrupt management and mafia interference. Salini aims to attract other international donors to restore the Ancient Roman city, telling a press conference: “It would be a crime to let Pompeii crumble.”
Salini’s announcement comes at a time when the head of the UNESCO National Commission in Italy, Giovanni Puglisi, warned the Italian government that it needs to accelerate ongoing restoration work at the archaeological site, saying the government “has until 31 December to adopt suitable measures for Pompeii”. In January 2013, UNESCO documented structural problems and damage Pompeii. UNESCO is due to make a progress assessment in February 2014.
Puglisi cited “irregular buildings not included in the previous plan and a lack of personnel” at the site. He called for “a new observance zone” around the site to protect it from illegal construction infringing the area.
Italy’s Culture Minister Massimo Bray responded to the criticism, saying: “Pompeii is a symbol for our country. UNESCO’s reprimand is an alarm which I take very seriously and we are already working to overcome the site’s urgent problems.”
Interviewed in Italian newspaper ‘Corriere della Sera’, Bray said generous donations such as Salini’s are “more than welcome”. The minister said that repairs at Pompeii are the centre of his attention and, together with Prime Minister Enrico Letta, he is defining a list of priorities regarding cultural sites. Pompeii is at the top of the list. Bray told the newspaper: “[Pompeii] is one of Italy’s landmarks of Italy, of an entire civilisation, our calling card to the world.”
In 2008, archaeologists complained about Pompeii’s poor upkeep, mismanagement and a lack of investment, prompting the Italian government to declare a state of emergency regarding the site. In recent years, parts of the site have collapsed causing alarm around the world. In February 2013, the European Union contributed €41.8 million towards a €105 million fund for restoration work at Pompeii to be completed by 2015. The EU said it would attempt to protect conservation funds from falling into the hands of local mafiosi.