HomeStampa esteraItaly's abundance of heritage sites leads to indifference

Italy’s abundance of heritage sites leads to indifference

As director-general of the heritage department of Italy’s culture ministry, Roberto Cecchi must choose his words carefully. The latest cuts in the budget approved last month were not so much unfair, he ventures, as “insufficiently considered”.


di John Hooper, dal Guardian Online del 3 dicembre 2010 home


Unlike Spain, Italy is cutting from an extraordinarily low existing level of support for its heritage. A country sprinkled with aqueducts and amphitheatres, medieval piazzas and renaissance palazzos devotes far less of its budget to their conservation than others with less to boast.

According to the latest comparative figures from the OECD, from 2006, Italy devoted only 0.8% of its public spending to culture and leisure, putting it 22nd on a list of 27 countries for which statistics were available. France, like Spain, spent almost twice as much.

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“Italy has never spent enough on culture,” says Cecchi. “France has 20 national museums. Italy has 400. In France, there are 25,000 protected buildings. Here, there are between 350,000 and 400,000.”

He adds: “If we do not work to preserve this enormous heritage, if we merely concentrate on the most eye-catching cases like the Colosseum and Pompeii, we risk losing the rest.”

Few of the tourists who arrive in Rome by taxi realise, as they speed through, say, the Porta San Giovanni that the walls to either side were built in the 3rd century. The so-called Aurelian walls, of which some 8 miles remain, are among the glories of the Eternal City.

Yet the Romans too take them for granted, and the result is that they are gradually crumbling. A 15-metre stretch collapsed in 2007.

The Aurelian walls are perhaps the biggest structure on Italia Nostra’s “red list”. So far, it takes in only seven of Italy’s 20 regions, but it already comprises the names of 60 severely endangered buildings and sites.

They include barely known castles, far off the beaten tourist track, such as the one at Olcenengo in Piedmont, and archaeological sites of acknowledged importance such as the Greek settlement at Selinunte in Sicily, with its magnificent, reconstructed Temple of Hera.

There are entire nations with a cultural heritage less illustrious than that which fills this red list and, says Cecchi, that could help explain why Italian governments have traditionally been so indifferent to conservation. “When you have things,” he says, “there is a tendency to think you will have them forever.”


Inserito su il 10 dicembre 2010

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