• 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: 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)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Italians arrested over drug stash in Vatican car
An official Vatican car was caught smuggling drugs through France. Photo: AFP

Italians arrested over drug stash in Vatican car

Two Italian men are in French jail after they allegedly used an official Vatican vehicle to try to smuggle several kilos of cocaine and cannabis through France, according to media reports. READ  

Cops probe poor parents who keep kids at home
The children missed at least 25 percent of lessons. Classroom photo: Shutterstock

Cops probe poor parents who keep kids at home

A total of 165 parents in southern Italy have been reported to the police for not sending their children to school, with many of the would-be pupils kept away from the classroom to support their families. READ  

Two people plunge to death from Milan building
Police are investigating after a man and woman plunged to their deaths from a building in Milan. Police photo: Shutterstock

Two people plunge to death from Milan building

A 20-year-old man and a woman, aged 19, died after falling seven floors from an apartment building in Milan. A British woman living opposite said the man appeared “to drag” the woman down with him. READ  

One quarter of Italian teens has tried cannabis
The study found that almost one in four Italian teenagers between the ages of 15 and 19 had tried cannabis in the past year. Photo: Robyn Beck/AFP

One quarter of Italian teens has tried cannabis

More and more Italian teenagers are experimenting with cannabis, with almost one in four having tried the drug at least once in the past year, a new government report on drug addiction has found. READ  

American tourists caught with Pompeii relic
The American tourists allegedly stole an artefact from Pompeii weighing 30kg. Photos: Il Mattino

American tourists caught with Pompeii relic

Two American tourists were caught at Rome’s Fiumicino airport with a 30kg artefact from the ruins of Pompeii stashed in their luggage. READ  

Immigrants drive Italy's economy
325,000 small businesses in Italy are now owned by non-European immigrants. Photo: Lee Coursey

Immigrants drive Italy's economy

UPDATED: The number of small businesses owned by immigrants surged 44 percent between April and June as they snapped up failed Italian firms at bargain prices, the head of a Rome business group told The Local. READ  

Cuckold calls cops on wife's 'burglar' lover
Police officers then had to break up a violent fight which broke out between the two men. Police photo: Shutterstock

Cuckold calls cops on wife's 'burglar' lover

A man in Pisa called the police during the night after finding a “burglar” in his home, only to discover the intruder was his wife’s lover. READ  

Italy will not take part in air strikes against Isis
Italy's Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini said the country will not participate in air strikes against Isis. Photo: Maxim Shipenkova/AFP

Italy will not take part in air strikes against Isis

Italy will send arms and aid to Iraq to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (Isis) militant group but will not take part in US-led air strikes, Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini said after a summit in Paris on Monday. READ  

My Italian Career
'I chose Italy because I know the culture'
Gilad Uziely (L) with a Mekomy guide in Rome. Photo: Gilad Uziely

'I chose Italy because I know the culture'

Tourism in Italy is big business, but it’s not always easy for visitors to find out how best to learn about the vast culture. As the website Mekomy expands into Italy, we spoke to its Israeli co-founder, Gilad Uziely, about how it's challenging traditional tourism. READ  

Clooney to be married by Rome's ex-mayor
The pair will wed on September 29th in the former Doge's Palace in Venice, Ca' Farsetti. Photo: AFP

Clooney to be married by Rome's ex-mayor

George Clooney and human rights lawyer Amal Alamuddin will be married later this month in Venice by Walter Veltroni, a former mayor of Rome, Italian media has reported. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Education
Top tips: how to learn Italian
Culture
Italy's expat tribes: What kind are you?
Education
Ranked: Italy's best MBAs in English
Business & Money
Ferrari: champ on road, flop on racetrack
National
Italy set to lose crown of biggest wine producer
National
Pizzeria robbery 'miracle' as gun jams
Society
Clooney to marry in Venice in September
Society
Bilingualism: 'I see English as a present I'm giving them'
Education
Top Ten: The world's best unis to study Italian
Business & Money
'The crisis is extremely healthy for Italy'
Culture
Venice buzzes with new film financing initiative
Travel
American tourist pays parking fine from 1964
Culture
Top ten: Weird Italian expressions
National
'Growing up bilingual can be a challenge'
National
Italian diner finds five pearls in oyster
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
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
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

442
jobs available