Italy lovers asked to help save crumbling treasures

The decaying bedroom of a Pompeii home, including a graffito perhaps scrawled by Emperor Julius Caeser's second wife, could finally get the restoration it deserves. If enough people donate online, that is.

Italy lovers asked to help save crumbling treasures
The association LoveItaly is trying to fund restorations of Italian sites via a crowdfunding campaign. Photo: Roberto Salamone/AFP

That an archaeological site like the cubiculum in Pompeii's House of the Centaur might be left to ruin is indicative of a fundamental problem for Italy: its cultural heritage is too large.

Finding the funds to maintain and support such a rich patrimony is a challenge for local councils and tourism boards across country. But that could be about to change thanks to a new non-profit organization called LoveItaly.

LoveItaly is a crowdfunding platform, curated by a cross disciplinary group of experts. It is seeking to raise money for restoration projects on neglected Italian treasures from history buffs and Italophiles around the globe.

One of its first projects will be the ambitious restoration of the crumbling, second-century BC bedroom in the House of the Centaur at Pompeii. However, before work can commence the organization needs to come up with the €53,000 archaeologists at Pompeii have quoted for the restoration.

State of disrepair: the crumbling interior of the bedroom in the Domus of the Centaur Photo: LoveItaly

So where might the cash come from?

“There are many people in many countries who love Italy,” Tracy Roberts, the vice-president and co-founder of LoveItaly told reporters in Rome on Tuesday.
“We are trying to create an international movement.”

Through its website, LoveItaly is asking people to donate upwards of €2, money which will be used to preserve Italy's cultural heritage for future generations.

Noble ambitions aside, many would argue that Italy's ruins already receive millions of euros in funding from private companies, EU taxes and tourist money each year.

“Unfortunately, Italian cultural heritage hasn't been managed in the right way,” Dr. Richard Hodges, an archaeology professor and LoveItaly president said.

LoveItaly, which believes in maximum transparency, hopes to change the management of Italy's cultural resources by working closely with young university students and innovative entrepreneurs when carrying out projects.

The platform promotes small-scale restoration projects, as projects over a certain cost must legally be put to public tender: a fact which has left them open to waste and corruption.

If crowdfunding can raise the funds to carry out restoration projects like the one it has planned for Pompeii, Hodges believes it could reap huge benefits for the Italian economy.

In 2012 Rome was the 12th most visited city in the world, while Frankfurt was ranked 8th in spite of possessing a mere fraction of the history that the Italian city can offer tourists.

“We need to exploit Italian cultural heritage by investing resources like money and young people into it to be sure that it lasts forever. 

“Culture is Italy's infinite oil reserve – one that [Russian President] Vladimir Putin would be all too happy to have.”

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Why Friday the 13th isn’t an unlucky date in Italy

Unlucky for some, but not for Italians. Here's why today's date isn't a cause for concern in Italy - but Friday the 17th is.

Why Friday the 13th isn't an unlucky date in Italy

When Friday the 13th rolls around, many of us from English-speaking countries might reconsider any risky plans. And it’s not exactly a popular date for weddings in much of the western world.

But if you’re in Italy, you don’t need to worry about it.

There’s no shortage of strongly-held superstitions in Italian culture, particularly in the south. But the idea of Friday the 13th being an inauspicious date is not among them.

Though the ‘unlucky 13’ concept is not unknown in Italy – likely thanks to the influence of American film and TV – here the number is in fact usually seen as good luck, if anything.

The number 17, however, is viewed with suspicion and Friday the 17th instead is seen as the unlucky date to beware of.

Just as some Western airlines avoid including the 13th row on planes, you might find number 17 omitted on Italian planes, street numbering, hotel floors, and so on – so even if you’re not the superstitious type, it’s handy to be aware of.

The reason for this is thought to be because in Roman numerals the number 17 (XVII) is an anagram of the Latin word VIXI, meaning ‘I have lived’: the use of the past tense apparently suggests death, and therefore bad luck. It’s less clear what’s so inauspicious about Friday.

So don’t be surprised if, next time Friday 17th rolls around, you notice some Italian shops and offices closed per scaramanzia’.

But why then does 13 often have a positive connotation in Italy instead?

You may not be too surprised to learn that it’s because of football.

Ever heard of Totocalcio? It’s a football pools betting system in which players long tried to predict the results of 13 different matches.

There were triumphant calls of ho fatto tredici! – ‘I’ve done thirteen’ – among those who got them all right. The popular expression soon became used in other contexts to mean ‘I hit the jackpot’ or ‘that was a stroke of luck!’

From 2004, the number of games included in Totocalcio rose to 14, but you may still hear winners shout ‘ho fatto tredici’ regardless.

Other common Italian superstitions include touching iron (not wood) for good luck, not toasting with water, and never pouring wine with your left hand.