• Italy edition
 
Opinion
Is red tape threatening Italy's prized ruins?
Contractors maintaining Pompeii are often 'underskilled'. Photo: Kimberly Ross

Is red tape threatening Italy's prized ruins?

Published: 20 Jan 2014 16:00 GMT+01:00
Updated: 20 Jan 2014 16:00 GMT+01:00

Last year, UNESCO threatened Italy with removing the prestigious World Heritage status from Pompeii, as walls fell around the country’s most famous ancient site. The move reflected broader international concern that Italy, struggling in the depths of an ongoing recession, had abandoned its world-renowned heritage.

Reports on Monday also revealed that the Italian government is planning even deeper cutbacks on its prized heritage.

READ MORE HERE: Italy culture cuts are 'disturbing': association.

But while the spending parts are a concern, experts tell The Local there are broader issues at play. 

These include the way work gets done in Italy, with companies cutting corners to win bids on restoration work and the government failing to pay its staff and contractors for months on end.

Those who do have money to spend on Italian heritage - including philanthropists and international organizations - often face bureaucratic hurdles which mean those that do persevere must wait years to get anything done.

“I don’t think we can attribute everything to the recession; the recession has made a bad situation worse,” says Andrew Wallace-Hadrill, a former director of the British School at Rome, one of the capital's archaeological academies. 

Despite having more sites on the World Heritage list than any other country - 49, ahead of China’s 45 - Wallace-Hadrill says there has been “an historical underfunding of heritage” in Italy.

But whereas sites across the country may be suffering from budget cuts, the same cannot be said of Pompeii, the city wiped out by a volcano in 74AD, which saw a €105 million conservation project get underway last February.

SEE ALSO: 'Pompeii needs an archaeologist at the top'

Yet still the walls fall down - the result of outsourcing precious maintenance work to underskilled builders, according to Wallace-Hadrill. While outsourcing is not a bad thing in principle, he says the current way it is done “is not fit for purpose”.

“They say, ‘This particular house is in a terrible state, let’s do a big project on this house’. They put it out to tender, then companies under-bid each other,” Wallace-Hadrill adds.

Not only does this lead to cutting corners, but the whole process takes years and leads to future damage on site.

If outsourcing is necessary, contracts should be given for continuous maintenance rather than only after something goes wrong. Wallace-Hadrill’s view is echoed by Darius Arya, CEO of the Amer­i­can Insti­tute for Roman Cul­ture.

“When a disaster happens, such as a wall collapsing, the money is there. But if you spend a little bit of money consistently, then you won’t get to those disasters. It continues to be badly run,” he tells The Local.

The Colosseum can be seen as a prime example of how poor management and bureaucracy can burden Italy’s ancient sites.

Work finally began on the Rome amphitheatre in September, three years after Diego Della Valle, owner of Tod’s shoes, announced a €25 million donation for its restoration.

Diego Della Valle by Gabriel Bouys AFP

Diego Della Valle, chief executive of Tod's shoe company, donated €25 million to the Colosseum. Photo: Gabriel Bouys/AFP

“They set up a bidding war; both builders and conservationists wanted to do the work. Then there were court cases and appeals and now finally the work is ready to go,” adds Arya.

While the Tod’s investment “can do a great thing in Italy”, Arya says there are better ways to channel corporate investment into heritage.

“[The American Institute] is set up as an educational organization, so I don’t have bidding wars. If I do a project and get money from McDonald’s, for example, they give the money to us as a non-profit organization and we don’t have to worry about hold ups like those at the Colosseum,” he explains.

While applauding Italy’s attempt to find alternative sources of funding, Wallace-Hadrill is sceptical of corporate sponsorship, asking: “Can you trust a commercial sponsor to act in the interests of heritage of the public in general. as opposed to its own interests?”

Della Valle’s money would have been better channeled through a foundation, in the same way funds are directed through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation rather than the billionaires’ company Microsoft, Wallace-Hadrill adds.

Additionally, the government should grant tax incentives for such donations. “Don’t charge VAT on work done by philanthropic sponsorship [and] if the sponsor is an Italian taxpayer, allow them to discount the philanthropy from their tax bill,” he says.

While wealthy donors are valuable, Arya argues that there should also be more opportunities for individual visitors to contribute.

“If you go to the UK or the US, it’s very clear that you can contribute money right there and you feel confident about where it’s going. Show great projects that are successful and promote them; give more of a say to the visitor,” he says.

Italy should also be harnessing mobile technology for on-the-spot donations and give museums the option of crowdfunding to fund particular projects, he adds.

SEE ALSO: 'Tourism is our industrial future': Italian tycoon 

In order to save Italy’s ancient sites, the government must also pay more attention to their modern-day workers. “The typical situation is that people do something for the government and get paid weeks or months later. You’ve got to pay the employees and the contractors have to get paid too,” Arya says.

Such delays in paying salaries and getting work underway has led to the workforce's “growing sense of complete despair” according to Wallace-Hadrill.

“[It’s] despair about the way the system of government has let them down,” he says, citing Pompeii as a case in point: “Government after government has sent in the fire engines to Pompeii, rather than taking a measured long-term look.”

From badly-organized bids to mismanaging money, Italy needs a new approach to make the most out of its world-renowned heritage. “Fewer fire engines, more support,” says Wallace-Hadrill.

Don't miss a story about Italy - Join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Rosie Scammell (rosie.scammell@thelocal.com)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Italian diner finds five pearls in oyster
Oyster photo: Shutterstock

Italian diner finds five pearls in oyster

An Italian businessman got a pleasant surprise when he ordered oysters at a restaurant in Salerno and discovered five pearls inside. READ  

Italian cabbies 'smuggled refugees to Germany'
The Italians are accused of using their cars and minibuses to accompany hundreds of migrants illegally crossing into Germany. Taxi photo: Shutterstock

Italian cabbies 'smuggled refugees to Germany'

A number of Italian taxi drivers have been arrested in Germany for allegedly running hundreds of refugees across the country's border, although one organization claims they have done nothing wrong. READ  

Twist in Italy-India spat as marine hospitalized
Marine Massimiliano Latorre collapsed on Sunday and was taken to hospital. Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP

Twist in Italy-India spat as marine hospitalized

One of two Italian marines detained in India over the fatal shooting of two fishermen has been hospitalised in New Delhi, according to the defence ministry in Rome and one of his lawyers. READ  

EU sanctions against Russia
EU to decide new Russia sanctions on Friday
Italy’s Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini said that new sanctions against Russia will be decided by the European Commission on Friday. Photo: Jewel Samad/AFP

EU to decide new Russia sanctions on Friday

Italy’s Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini said on Tuesday that new sanctions against Russia over the conflict in Ukraine will be decided by the European Commission on Friday. READ  

Votes for expats
Votes for expats: Plan to end UK's 15-year rule
Photo: TJ Morris

Votes for expats: Plan to end UK's 15-year rule

The Conservative party in the UK has made a bid to woo expat voters by pledging to end the controversial “15-year rule” that prevents millions of Brits abroad from being able to vote. READ  

Bad weather brings summer to an abrupt end
Heavy rain swept across Italy on Monday. Rain photo: Shutterstock

Bad weather brings summer to an abrupt end

The summer has come to an abrupt end in Italy, as bad weather sweeps across the country leaving at least one person dead and six injured. READ  

'Germany is a model for Italy': Renzi
“We must stop talking badly of Germany," Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said on Monday. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

'Germany is a model for Italy': Renzi

Italians must stop talking badly of Germany, which should be seen as a model country, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said on Monday. READ  

Mario Balotelli dumps fiancée: report
Mario Balotelli has reportedly split from fiancée Fanny Neguesha. Photos: Gabriel Bouys/AFP (L) and Alberto Ligria/AFP

Mario Balotelli dumps fiancée: report

Italian striker Mario Balotelli has reportedly split from his fiancée less than three months after proposing to her on a Brazilian beach. READ  

Venice film festival
Venice buzzes with new film financing initiative
European Gap-Financing Co-production Market, launched at this year's Venice film festival, hopes to take movies from the drawing board into cinemas. Photo: Gabriel Buoys/AFP

Venice buzzes with new film financing initiative

Gripped by film festival fever, international investors are hunting for the next groundbreaking stories and rising-star directors - and they're in luck, for far from the crush at festivals like Toronto, Venice has launched a unique initiative. READ  

Pistelli likely to be Italy's new foreign minister
Lapo Pistelli is currently Italy's deputy foreign minister. Photo: IAEA Imagebank/Flickr

Pistelli likely to be Italy's new foreign minister

After Federica Mogherini was on Saturday named the EU’s new foreign policy chief, her deputy Lapo Pistelli is in pole position to take over as Italy's foreign minister. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Politics
Far right slammed over gay adoption photo
Travel
Spielberg leaves €300 tip in Italian restaurant
Sport
Football greats to kick-off Rome's match for peace
Politics
Italy scores EU win as Mogherini gets top job
National
Refugees protest against 'monotonous' Italian food
National
Rome man begs for jail to escape wife
Health
Italian scientists map brain to diagnose ALS
Gallery
Top 10: Italy's best films
National
Waiter writes 'faggots' on gay diners' receipt
Health
'The G-spot doesn't exist': Italian scientist
Sport
Mario Balotelli's most memorable moments
Business & Money
'The crisis is extremely healthy for Italy'
Features
Top tips: Surviving a job interview in Italy
Health
'Let infertile couple use donors': Italian court
Health
Wives suffer 'Retired Husband Syndrome'
National
10 fascinating facts about Augustus
Sport
VIDEO: Balotelli takes on 'Ice Bucket Challenge'
Travel
Give kids extra month off 'to boost tourism': plea
Travel
Tourist takes €4,000 taxi from Denmark to Rome
Society
Outrage over gossip mag's free gay joke book
International
Rome mayor slams British travel warning
Politics
Scots inspire separatists in Italy's Germanic north
Travel
Ten stupid things tourists have done in Italy
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

545
jobs available