Italy's crumbling historic ruins get big cash boost

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Domus Aurea, built by Emperor Nero, will be among the restoration projects to benefit from the funds. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP
09:10 CET+01:00
Italy will pump hundreds of millions of euros into saving Italy's crumbling historic sites, with the Emperor Nero's party palace at the top of the priority list.

An additional €300 million will be spent on restoring over 200 heritage sites, including a palace built by Emperor Nero, across Italy over the next three years, Cultural Minister Dario Franceschini said on Monday.

The funds will be available immediately for the 241 projects, which includes the renovation of palaces, including Rome's Palazzo Venezia, galleries, museums and libraries across Italy, the minister said in a statement.

The move comes amid mounting concern about the state of Italy's vast stock of historic sites. The culture budget has been slashed since the economic crisis hit in 2007, which critics claim has resulted in some of the world's most precious monuments being put at risk. In 2014, Pompeii's Temple of Venus collapsed in heavy rains.

Some €13 million will go towards renovating Domus Aurea, or "Golden House", in the heart of Rome.

The palace, which lies on a hill overlooking the Colosseum, was built by Nero after the great fire of Rome in 64 A.D. had razed the aristocratic dwellings in the area to the ground, and featured groves of fruit trees, vineyards and an artificial lake.

Designed as a party villa rather than a home - with 300 rooms but no sleeping quarters - its walls were covered by extensive gold leaf, semi-precious stones and ivory, and colourful frescoes.

Meanwhile, more than €2 million will be spent on restoring the walls of medieval Siena and more than €6 million will go towards various projects in the canal city of Venice.

After years of spending cuts, Franceshini said the extra money indicates that “culture has returned to the centre of national politics”.

The investment is in addition to €360 million already injected into restoring and maintaining sites in Italy’s impoverished southern regions. The EU has also made significant contributions, putting €41 million into the restoration of Pompeii alone.

The announcement came after premier Matteo Renzi passed the budget for 2016, which included more spending on culture.

Despite the welcome cash boost, much more will be needed to secure the future of Italy's heritage, including funding from the private sector.

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Last year, The Local reported on how crowd funding was being used to get Italy-lovers to finance the repair of the House of the Centaur in Pompeii. Big-name sponsors are funding other works, with luxury shoemaker Tod's financing the restoration of the Colosseum.

And many experts point out that Italy's problems go beyond funding: bureaucracy and corruption mean that money intended for restoration isn't always well spent.

READ MORE: Is red tape threatening Italy's prize ruins?

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