Pompeii wall collapse blamed on Berlusconi's broken promises

Italian government accused of broken promises by heritage organisations after latest incident of decay

Part of a Roman wall has collapsed at Pompeii, one year after a house there crumbled, prompting accusations that the Italian government has failed to keep promises to protect the ancient site.

During heavy rain on Friday, an eight square metre section of a perimeter wall crumbled near Nola Gate.

It is the latest in a series of incidents including the fall of the House of the Gladiators last November, which Unesco criticised and which led the government of Silvio Berlusconi to vow that upkeep would improve.

"A year after the collapse of the House of the Gladiators nothing concrete has been done," Italy's national association of architects said in a statement. "There is a continued lack of ordinary maintenance, which is the only way to save the site. Our fear is that the coming months will see ever more frequent and serious incidents."

Culture minister Giancarlo Galan blamed "violent rains" and said only the outside layer of the stone wall had fallen, leaving the structure intact. The EU, he added, was about to provide €105m (£91m) for safeguarding the site.

But one expert said a year-old pledge to hire new staff at Pompeii had not been kept. "Money and people were promised, but despite frequent announcements, neither arrived," said Maria Pia Guermandi, a council member at Italian heritage organisation Italia Nostra.

"The hiring of new archaeologists to help protect the site was included in a new bill recently but was then omitted from the final text. In the meantime, funds have actually been diverted to support museums in nearby Naples."

Teresa Elena Cinquantaquattro, superintendent of the site, said she was awaiting the arrival of 25 archaeologists.

Guermandi said the partial collapse of the wall had been caused by water infiltrating the stonework. "All it would have taken to prevent this was some waterproofing on top of the wall – simple, regular maintenance," she said.

"Instead of waiting for €100m, the government could have freed up €10m to get started immediately."

Tsao Cevoli, president of the Italian association of archaeologists, said Pompeii's buildings, which were excavated in 1748 and are renowned for their well-preserved state, were now falling apart on a daily basis.

"Every morning the custodians collect pieces of crumbling walls and hide them before the tourists arrive, to stop tourists taking them away and to hide the real situation."

Guermandi said archaeological sites across Italy were at risk as Berlusconi's government pushed through budget cuts.

"Take for example the Forum in Rome and the underground spaces at the Colosseum, which were both completely flooded by the rains last week," she said.

Contributor

Tom Kington in Rome

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Pompeii villa opens in Paris, but Roman ruins remain at risk in Italy
More than 200 artefacts loaned to Musée Maillol in Franco-Italian joint effort to highlight plight of Unesco heritage site

Dalya Alberge

19, Sep, 2011 @5:28 PM

Article image
Erotic fresco depicting Greek myth unveiled in Pompeii
Well-preserved image of Leda and the swan was found during excavations last year

Angela Giuffrida in Rome

25, Nov, 2019 @1:21 PM

Article image
Pompeii wall collapses to pile woes on Berlusconi ally
Night of heavy rain brings down 7m of Roman wall around House of the Moralist

John Hooper in Rome

30, Nov, 2010 @5:16 PM

Article image
Huge Atlas statue to guard Sicily's Temple of Zeus once more
Eight-metre statue built in 5th century BC had been buried among ancient ruins

Lorenzo Tondo in Palermo

14, Jul, 2020 @5:46 PM

Rome archaeologists find 'Nero's party piece' in dig
Remains thought to be revolving dining room built by Emperor Nero to impress his guests

Tom Kington in Rome

29, Sep, 2009 @6:34 PM

Article image
Create UN force to protect ancient heritage from Isis, says Italy
World’s archaeological heritage needs protection by UN ‘blue helmets of culture’ force akin to peacekeepers, says culture minister Dario Franceschini

Rosie Scammell

19, Mar, 2015 @6:03 PM

Article image
Italy's new ruins: heritage sites being lost to neglect and looting
Overgrown and weathered, many historical monuments are disappearing as public funds for culture fail to match modern Italy’s inheritance

Lorenzo Tondo in Palermo

28, May, 2019 @11:56 AM

Article image
New penis for statue in Silvio Berlusconi's office
Italian prime minister's architect adds magnetic member to make 1,800-year-old Mars sculpture whole again

John Hooper in Rome

18, Nov, 2010 @2:28 PM

Article image
Hadrian's villa tunnels explored as cavers drop down into hidden city

Amateur cavers map network of passages built by Roman emperor at Tivoli to keep slaves, oxen and victuals below stairs

Tom Kington in Rome

20, Aug, 2013 @6:02 PM

Article image
Italy calls for German assistance as Pompeii falls further into ruin
German archaeologists to use nanotechnology as Italians come under pressure from Unesco over vandalism

Lizzy Davies in Rome

30, Aug, 2013 @8:35 PM