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ARCHAEOLOGY

American tourist damaged Pompeii mosaic by shifting tiles ‘to get a good photo’

An American tourist has been quizzed by police after shifting some of the tiles on a mosaic in the ancient city.

American tourist damaged Pompeii mosaic by shifting tiles 'to get a good photo'
File photo of Pompeii: Carlo Hermann/AFP

The man said he had moved the tiles accidentally in an attempt to get a good photograph of the site on Wednesday.

He was taking a picture at the House of the Sailor, which gets its name from the mosaic located at the entryway, which depicts six boats. The 2nd-century, two-storey building was only opened to the public for the first time in autumn 2017 after extensive restoration.

Security staff at the tourist hub who saw the incident asked the amateur photographer to explain his intentions to local police, but were satisfied that he had not intended to cause any damage.

“The episode testifies to the fragility of our heritage, and to the constant protection of the site carries out by security and law enforcement officers daily,” representatives from the archeological site said in a statement.

They called for “a collective awareness about our common cultural heritage” from each visitor to the park in order to preserve the delicate ruins.

Specialist restorers will reattach the parts of the mosaic that got dislodged.

The House of the Sailor was uncovered in 1871 and contains a private spa and underground bakery workshop, combining aspects of traditional town houses with those of commercial warehouses.

Thefts from Pompeii

While the American's actions may not have been malicious, the site also struggles with tourists who pocket relics as holiday souvenirs or even to sell for a profit. 

Sometimes however, the thieves try to make amends. In 2014, a Canadian tourist returned an artefact she had stolen from Pompeii's amphitheatre during her honeymoon – 50 years earlier.

And several thieves have sent back the loot claiming the relics are 'cursed'. Pompeii's archaeological superintendent said in 2015 that he was considering setting up an exhibition of the returned artefacts and accompanying letters, to tell the story behind the stolen pieces.

READ ALSO: How Italy plans to fight back against monument vandalsHow Italy plans to fight back against monument vandals
Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

 

CULTURE

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.

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