Huge Roman villa found under Amalfi church set to open

A fresco-covered Roman villa, found underneath a church on Italy's sun-kissed Amalfi coast, is set to open to the public for the first time in July.

Huge Roman villa found under Amalfi church set to open
A Roman villa buried eight metres below an Italian church will open to the public this July. Photo: Vassili Casula

The opening of the villa was announced by Italy's Culture Undersecretary, Antimo Cesaro, on Saturday.

Cesaro told Ansa the ruin was “a perfectly preserved archaeological treasure of enormous artistic value”.

The enormous villa dates back to the second century BC and was first unearthed eight metres below the church of Santa Maria dell'Assunta in central Positano, Campania, in 2004.

Prior to its discovery, the impressive abode had lain hidden since AD 79 when an eruption of Vesuvius buried it under volcanic stone and ash. The same cataclysmic eruption also buried the nearby Roman towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum.

Over the last 12 years, teams of international archaeologists have been working to excavate the vast villa complex, which stretches under the entire historic centre of Positano.

So far, only a fraction of the total structure has been brought to light.

While excavating the segment of the home set to be opened archaeologists discovered gilded columns, colourful frescoes and several household objects including bronze vases and wooden wardrobes.

Some of the items recovered from the villa. Photo: Vassili Casula

The excavations are still ongoing and restoration work is being carried out on some of the frescoes. However, this summer the public will be able to see the ancient home for the first time. 

In a later tweet, Cesaro added that the villa would be given extra money from a €150 million government pot to fund further archaeological work at the site.

To date, a reported €4 million has already been spent on the villa's partial excavation and restoration, and the site promises do be a huge draw for tourists.

“It's a great opportunity for the city – and one which we don't intend to waste, said Positano mayor Michele De Lucia.  

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Italy’s Renzi wants ex-ECB boss Draghi to become prime minister: report

Ex-PM Matteo Renzi would like to see former European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi become prime minister of Italy, a party source told Reuters on Sunday.

Italy's Renzi wants ex-ECB boss Draghi to become prime minister: report
Matteo Renzi. Image: Andreas Solaro/ POOL / AFP

“I would say that is one of our proposals,” confirmed the source, who declined to be named.

The Italian government collapsed last week when PM Giuseppe Conte resigned. The former coalition allies are currently trying to come to an agreement and sort out their differences.

The centre-left government had been in turmoil ever since former premier Matteo Renzi withdrew his Italia Viva party earlier this month, a move that forced Conte to step down this week.

During the past year, Renzi frequently criticised Conte’s management of the pandemic and economic crisis.

Italy’s La Stampa newspaper also reported on Sunday that President Sergio Mattarella was considering Draghi for the prime ministerial role. However, Mattarella’s office promptly denied this, saying there had been no contact between them.

So far, there has been no comment from Draghi, who hasn't been seen much in the public eye since 2019.

Italy's president, Sergio Mattarella, gave ruling parties more time on Friday to form a new government, after the resignation of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. 

Coalition parties Italia Viva, the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) and anti-establishment 5-Star Movement must come to an agreement to allow the government to heal. 

Renzi, a former prime minister himself, has pubilcly stated that he does not want to talk about who should lead the next government at this stage, reasoning that the parties need to agree on a way forward first.

“Any effort today to fuel a discussion about Draghi is offensive to Draghi and above all to the president of the republic,” Renzi said in an interview published on Sunday with Corriere della Sera.

A senior Italia Viva lawmaker also told Reuters that “If the president gives a mandate to Draghi, we would certainly support this”. 

Renzi, whose party is not even registering three percent support in opinion polls, quit the coalition over Conte’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and his plans for spending more than 200 billion euros from a European Union fund to help Italy’s damaged economy.

READ ALSO: Why do Italy's governments collapse so often?