[CPProt.net] selected reports November 30, 2003

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Sun Nov 30 09:09:18 CET 2003





Pompeii erupts in popularity
Tracy Wilkinson, Los Angeles Times 
  
Published November 30, 2003 POMP30 

POMPEII, ITALY -- The longest lines start at the ancient brothel, 
where tourists ogle the erotic frescoes and terra-cotta sculptures.  

Up and down Pompeii's stone streets, hordes of visitors crowd around 
the restored ruins of elegant villas, examine the chipped remains of 
fading mosaics and plod through the fabled city that nearly 2,000 
years ago met its death under a deluge of volcanic ash, lava and 
poisonous gas.  

Just a few years ago, the ancient metropolis risked extinction again -
- crushed this time not by the majestic Mount Vesuvius, but by the 
trample of tourists and the ravages of rain, unusual heat and other 
natural elements.  

Today, Pompeii, a pillar in Italy's tourism-based economy, is by no 
means out of the woods. But there are promising signs of recovery, 
according to archaeological experts and what meets the eye.  

One key change involves an experiment in a form of self-government, a 
radical departure from Italy's tradition of state custodianship. 
After appointment of an energetic, respected new superintendent for 
all Pompeii-area archaeological sites, Pietro Giovanni Guzzo, Italian 
authorities in late 1997 agreed to allow all ticket and tourism-
related revenue to stay in Pompeii's budget. In addition, Guzzo was 
given permission to seek private investment.  

Guzzo said Pompeii takes in about 20 million euros a year (about $23 
million), and the European Union has contributed 30 million euros 
(about $34 million) for a five-year program. That's in addition to 
several restoration projects being sponsored by international 
foundations.  

"We have much more money than before," Guzzo said, adding quickly, 
"but it's always too little."  

Guzzo shifted the focus of Pompeii to preserving what has been 
discovered rather than seeking to unearth other parts of the vast, 
163-acre site. The policy is not without its detractors in the highly 
political world of archaeological scholarship. But he sees as folly 
the urge to expose additional wonders when those accessible now are 
decaying.  

"Pompeii is an ancient city that died," Guzzo said at his nondescript 
office on the edge of the site, where only one careful excavation by 
Swedes was in progress during a recent visit. "We are not trying to 
make new life here. That is impossible. We can only conserve what's 
there -- and work to make the public understand."  

Conditions had deteriorated so badly by the mid-1990s that only 14 
percent of the excavated site was open to the public; today, open 
areas are twice that, Guzzo said. Still, that's only about 25 villas. 
Forty years ago, visitors had access to 64 of them.  

Roping off houses and rotating those that are accessible may not 
please the tourists, but it does ward off some of the damage, 
Pompeii's administrators argue. And if this kind of managed tourism 
works in Pompeii, it can serve as a model for other sites in treasure-
rich Italy.  

In 1996, the World Monuments Fund, based in New York, declared 
Pompeii one of the world's most endangered sites, and UNESCO followed 
suit, putting Pompeii on its World Heritage List in 1998.  

The World Monuments Fund is sponsoring an international symposium 
this month in Naples to assess progress at Pompeii.  

Vesuvius erupted on an August afternoon in A.D. 79, spewing fiery ash 
and stone onto Pompeii, a seaside summer resort and playground for 
the elite, and surrounding villages. Many fled, but thousands were 
killed as the valley was buried in 20 feet of powdery and molten 
death. The result was a near-perfect picture, frozen in time, of 
imperial Rome.  

Pompeii was rediscovered in 1748, when systematic excavations began 
and explorers frequently made off with treasures. Priceless frescoes 
and mosaic tile floors were exposed to haphazard digs and 
uncontrolled tourism with no protection from the elements. What the 
ash of Vesuvius had preserved for nearly 17 centuries was steadily 
battered, neglected, vandalized or destroyed.  

One-third of what was the ancient city of Pompeii has not been 
excavated and remains covered in brush, dirt and stone.  

The debate today, at Pompeii and other sites buried by Vesuvius, as 
well as throughout the archeological world, is whether to dig or 
preserve. Guzzo sides with preserving.  

Pompeii is still plagued with endless troubles, erosion, collapsing 
walls and fading art, and any progress is fragile. When he isn't 
grappling with the local Neopolitan Mafia or his own agency's deeply 
entrenched bureaucracy, Guzzo is seeking corporate sponsorships for 
restoration projects, but without much luck.  

According to the Italian Culture Ministry, nearly 2.2 million people 
visited Pompeii in 2001, more than twice the number two decades 
earlier, when much more of the site was open to the public. The 
figure dropped off to just under 1.6 million last year, part of an 
overall decline in tourism to Europe after the Sept. 11 attacks.  

http://www.startribune.com/  


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