After 30 years, Italian museum opens – and shuts

Site was acquired in 1984 but funding struggles have delayed Altino National Archaeological Museum, which remains empty

The mayor was there, as was the regional governor. Once the speeches were over, drinks were served.

There was nothing unusual about the opening on Friday of the new Altino National Archaeological Museum, in northern Italy. Except that the museum has taken 30 years to inaugurate, is empty, and it closed again immediately after the ceremony.

“It’s been a story of interest and disinterest,” said Maurizio Donadelli, who for several years as a local councillor has watched and chivvied as the museum edged its way towards completion.

Now a village of fewer than 100 inhabitants, Altino has immense archaeological significance as it occupies the site of the classical city of Altinum. Aerial photographs show that below the surrounding fields lies an amphitheatre only fractionally smaller than the great arena in Verona. Refugees from Altinum were among those fleeing Germanic tribal invaders who founded in the nearby lagoon the settlement that became Venice.

In 1984, two disused agricultural buildings were acquired to house the museum. Yet when Donadelli became a councillor 17 years later, the museum was still a dream. The same year, an ancient sanctuary was found nearby and what little money was left was spent on its excavation.

By 2004, Donadelli and others had succeeded in extracting from Rome a pledge of €3m to be paid in three tranches to the local offices of the heritage ministry. In 2006, the central government demanded a breakdown of how the money so far transferred had been spent, only to be asked: what money? According to the Italian daily Corriere della Sera, the original pledge was accompanied by a document to be signed before the funds could be released. No one signed it.

By 2009, thanks to the efforts of the local parish priest and a regional government official, another €6m had been pledged, some of it by Brussels. But the EU component was not spent in time, causing further delay.

Since the fabric of the building has now been completed, it was felt that an inaugural ceremony was in order. But the regional authorities say they need another €2m to finish the work and install the exhibits.

“I’ve heard the inauguration proper will take place next summer,” said Donadelli. “But I’m not certain.”

• This article was amended on 13 December 2014 to clarify a quote by Maurizio Donadelli.


John Hooper 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
‘It was terrifying’: ancient book’s journey from Irish bog to museum treasure
A new book tells the story of the painstaking process to preserve the 1,200-year-old Faddan More Psalter

Lisa O'Carroll in Dublin

21, Nov, 2021 @10:00 AM

Article image
Roman high street reopens to visitors after more than 20 years

Decumanus Maximus at Herculaneum, near Naples was preserved by eruption of Vesuvius in AD79

John Hooper in Rome

19, Apr, 2011 @6:38 PM

Article image
Could a German spark a renaissance in the revered temple of Italian art?
Italy is having a cultural revolution – and art historian Eike Schmidt, the first non-Italian to become director of the Uffizi in Florence, wants to transform the running of the nation’s heritage

Rosie Scammell

22, Aug, 2015 @11:04 PM

Article image
Pompeii’s fast food joint unearthed in 2019 opens to public
Frescoed relic frozen by ash from Vesuvius eruption reveals snack bar used by poor residents of Roman city

Angela Giuffrida

09, Aug, 2021 @12:46 PM

Article image
Italian archaeologists have grape expectations of their ancient wine

Tom Kington: Scientists plant vineyards with the aim of making wine using techniques from classical Rome described by Virgil

Tom Kington

22, Aug, 2013 @3:32 PM

Article image
Giant statue of Roman emperor reunited with long-lost finger
Bronze finger found at Louvre is remounted on to Constantine’s hand at museum in Rome

Angela Giuffrida in Rome

29, Apr, 2021 @1:09 PM

Article image
US woman returns ancient Roman marble with letter of apology
Museum receives package from woman seeking forgiveness over graffitied artefact

Angela Giuffrida in Rome

25, Nov, 2020 @1:50 PM

Article image
Italian MP calls for museum director to be sacked for being ‘racist towards Italians’
Christian Greco, who manages the Egyptian Museum in Turin, offered discounted tickets to Arabic speakers

Angela Giuffrida in Rome

22, Sep, 2023 @11:45 AM

Article image
Shock and awe: Nijmegen helmet gives Carlisle museum a boost

Tullie House – which missed out on Crosby Garrett helmet – says saga has helped secure display items

Maev Kennedy

14, Jun, 2011 @5:20 PM