3 Cultural Treasures Threatened By Italy’s Debt (Slideshow)

Italy’s economy is the third-largest in Europe and the country is the fourth-biggest tourist destination in the world after France, the U.S. and Spain. But with debt totaling €1.9 trillion ($2.5 trillion) and the government having introduced three packages of austerity measures in one year, funding for the arts is in short supply.

Agence France-Presse (via Raw Story) reports that only 0.21 percent of Italy’s gross domestic product is allotted to culture. That’s €1.8 billion euros ($2.4 billion) that has to get partitioned out for keeping archaeological sites intact and providing for contemporary artists and their work. Both the La Scala opera house and Piccolo Teatro in Milan had their budgets cut by €17 million euros ($22.4 million) last year.

Some analysts predict that the loss to Italy’s economy could be “permanent.” The Wall Street Journal reports that sales of foreign cars had fallen 21% in the first quarter, as Italians face higher income taxes, higher property taxes and a value-added tax increase.

As writer (of The Name of the Rose) and professor Umberto Eco says,

“Something isn’t working. We haven’t learnt how to make money from our national culture.”


1. The Colosseum in Rome

Colosseum 1

In the photo above is the Colosseum, built from 72 to 80 under the emperors Vespasian and Titus and further modified under Domitian (81 – 96). The majestic amphitheater could hold 50,000 spectators who clamored to see gladiatorial fights (sometimes involving animals), mock sea battles, re-enactments of famous battles, executions (of Christians and others). Having survived fires, earthquakes, the sack of Rome, plans to turn it into a wool factory (under Pope Sixtus V) and a great deal more, the Colosseum is now endangered by budget cuts to arts funding in Italy.

The Colosseum sits on a well-trafficked street in today’s Rome and pollution is its latest enemy. In 2011, billionaire Diego Della Valle of the Tod’s shoe firm agreed to give €25 million (about $33 million) to restore the structure. The two-and-a-half-year project was to start in March but union protests and investigations have led to Della Valle saying he may withdraw the funds — bad news for the Colosseum as fragments of it have begun to fall off.

Photo by runneralan2004 via flickr.

2. Greek Temples in Paestum

Besides the crumbling Colosseum, other archaeological sites in Italy that are in need of upkeep lest they become ruins in a literal sense include Paestum. Founded by Greek colonists, this city in southern Italy is the site of some magnificent Doric temples including a temple of Hera (built around 550 BCE), a temple to Athena (ca. 500 BCE) and beautiful ancient paintings from a tomb.

Video uploaded by OULearn via YouTube .

3. The Town of Pompeii

House of the Faun

Partially buried under 13 to 20 feet of ash and pumice after the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79, much of Pompeii — along with the remains of people fleeing the volcano — has been preserved. But tourists meet locked doors and can only glimpse the interiors of houses with stunning mosaic floors. In 2010, the “House of the Gladiators” collapsed from heavy rain — and, too, from “mismanagement of funds and a tendency to put off big restoration projects in favor of immediate profit.”

Only one archaeologist is currently employed at Pompeii. The Italian government is hoping to release €105 million euros ($138 million) in funding from the European Union for a four-year maintenance plan that will provide for more archaeological staff and prevent further collapses of the ancient town’s walls.

Perhaps it is time to offer up a prayer to the ancient Roman gods and, in particular, to Robigo, god of rust and mildew?

Photo of the House of the Faun by kudumomo via flickr.

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Over 60 Ancient Artifacts Stolen From Olympia in Greece

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Photo of the Colosseum by debs-eye


Barbara Namie
Barbara Namie6 years ago

Yep, cut off the hand that feeds you.

Beverly G.
bev g7 years ago

everything needz preserving.

Marilyn L.
Marilyn L7 years ago

The government has a clear responsibility to support these treasures and they should find a way to do it.

Christine Stewart
Christine S7 years ago

These places need saving- maybe an international effort?

Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson7 years ago

preserve these sites!

Ian Fletcher
Ian Fletcher7 years ago

One of the best things about my job is that I get to visit Italy regularly. I love it.
I tell my kids, if you want an interesting yet cushy job, be an archeologist. I see groups of them all over Italy from Trieste to Rome. Lots of fresh air, they have a great time too, always cheerful, they seem. More than that, they are helping to promote Italy. Conserve it and discover more secrets.
I hope their work isn't destroyed by right-wing budget-cutting.

Nina Anghel
Nina Anghel7 years ago

Risking some of your biggest tourist attractions due to budget concerns seems poor planning. Don't they add to the overall economy?

Read more: http://www.care2.com/causes/3-cultural-treasures-threatened-by-italys-debt-slideshow.html#ixzz1riFZMSsk

nicola w.
Jane H7 years ago

I got so upset when the Taliban blew up the Bamiyan Buddhas ..my very wise mother put it back in perspective for me - "they're just built by man and as such can be done again , worry more about us destroying rain forests and living complex ecosystems...we haven't yet become smart enough to recreate anything like that."
She was right .

Rita De Ferrary
Rita De Ferrary7 years ago

I noticed a sick starving cat, probably full of parasites, neglected, alone in front of this national treasure. It's a living being and it isn't cared for, doesn't even get a noteworthy comment in this article for the suffering brought upon it by human indifference. As far as I am concerned the colosseum is an inanimate object, dosen't feel, doesn't hurt, and exists to produce revenue, because God knows what happened to humans and animals inside those walls didn't teach the human species a damn thing. Cruelty lives on in the acts of abuse inflicted on innocent animals and many humans as well. Human beings have bred themselves into a horde of 7 billion with a great majority having little to no access to the basics of food, water, and shelter. The rich get fatter and richer, they can't get enough and buy off governments with their wealth and are protected as individuals and corporations by those same governments they own. Ask the Vatican to fork over some money from the millions they take in from the 'faithful', and tax free business and land 'interests' and maybe sell some of their assets to save some of the national treasures. And while they're doing that save a living being FIRST, isn't that what St. francis would have done?!

Dee D.
De D7 years ago

What is Italy doing with the money it earns off of their cultural treasures? Don't they realize that if they don't keep up their treasures, and let them crumble, that the tourist dollars will slowly dry up?!