Work has already begun on the fairground ride, according to the German company that is installing it in the car park of a local supermarket, a few hundred metres from the ruins of Pompeii's ancient theatres.
The 60-metre wheel will allow visitors to “admire the whole panorama of the ancient city of Pompeii, Mount Vesuvius and the whole Gulf of Naples”, the promoters say.
— Corriere della Sera (@Corriere) March 27, 2019
The wheel is planned to open to the public on May 8th and operate for at least five months, according to local press reports, though a spokesperson for the mayor's office told The Times that “we need to run checks [over] a month before we give planning permission”.
Outcry over the project, which has been in progress for several months but only came to national attention this week, prompted Italy's culture minister to pledge to put the kibosh on the whole thing.
“A Ferris wheel in front of Pompeii? We're not even discussing it. We haven't received any such proposal, but if we do we'll send it straight back,” Alberto Bonisoli tweeted on Thursday.
Ruota panoramica davanti al sito di @pompeii_sites? Non se ne parla proprio. Non ho notizie che sia stato presentato un progetto del genere ai nostri uffici, ma se dovesse arrivare lo rispediremmo al mittente
— Alberto Bonisoli (@BonisoliAlberto) March 28, 2019
But photos of the site suggest that installation is already well underway, despite objections.
The wheel violates “the cultural values of the archaeological area” as well as intruding on a buffer zone set up around the site to protect the fragile excavations, the president of Italy's Cultural Heritage Observatory, Antonio Irlando, told the Corriere della Sera.
The wheel under construction just outside the Pompeii archaeological site. Photo: Wheel of Pompeii/Facebook
The archaeological site itself, which belongs to the Italian state, said that it had not been informed of the plan and has requested more information from the local council, the Corriere reported.
The contract to build the Ferris wheel, worth some €4 million, was signed in 2018 and gives the operators the option to run the ride both this summer and in 2020, they told the German press last year.
With 42 cabins carrying up to eight people each on a ride of ten minutes, the wheel would have a potential capacity of 1,200 passengers every hour. The operators plan to charge less than €10 per ticket, with discounts offered for locals.
“We see it as another attraction at an attraction, not as a funfair,” said Gunter Boos, the German developer responsible for the Ferris wheel.
Pompeii is already drawing more visitors than ever before, with numbers climbing to around 3.5 million per year. With excavations continuing to turn up exciting new discoveries, the sprawling site is one of Italy's most visited – and most fragile – attractions.
- Pompeii's 'School of Gladiators' opens after restoration
- Was Pompeii destroyed two months later than we thought?
- Tourist damaged Pompeii mosaic by shifting tiles 'to get a good photo'
Photo: Mario Laporta/AFP