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Italy's heritage disappearing due to neglect: expert

12-21-2010 21:15 BJT

ROME, Dec. 21 (Xinhua) -- Some of Italy's historical monuments and sites are crumbling into nothingness due to ongoing neglect, a historian says.

"Paradoxically it's a cultural matter. We have so many historical sites to preserve that we tend to forget the richness we have even if it lies beneath our eyes. It's a stupid, typical Italian approach," said Roberto Bruni, a historian and founder of "Righetto's Friends," an association that spreads awareness of Italian history.

"The problem of conserving and preserving in the best ways possible monuments and locations is continuously postponed and this is a real tragedy because on top of the human carelessness, there are also other external factors like the bad weather that further jeopardizes the integrity of Italy's immense cultural patrimony," Bruni said.

It has been a negative year for Italian tourist locations with a dreadful balance in terms of damage.

The world-famous archaeological site of Pompeii, the second most visited location in Italy after Rome's Coliseum, is falling to pieces. In the past month there have been three collapses.

The structures in Pompeii have practically disintegrated because of long-lasting neglect by central and local authorities responsible for maintaining the area and water infiltration due to seasonal heavy rains and trapped wall humidity, Bruni said.

To avoid future incidents, the Culture Ministry is working on the creation of a special foundation that will preserve the site and constantly monitor its condition.

But the problem is far from being solved. Bruni said he agreed on the need to reach out to private sponsors to preserve the monuments and sites but just as long as it would not turn into mere "commercial spot activity."

Pompeii was not the only site hit by troubles this year. Several weeks ago, one of the external turret walls of the majestic, medieval stone castle of Combiano near the city of Parma in northern crumbled due to neglect and rain.

Local authorities have already allocated some 300 million euros (393 million U.S. dollars) to rebuild the structure but more resources are needed.

Bruni said it's always the same problem with historical locations in Italy, which hosts the highest percentage of the world's cultural heritage sites listed by UNESCO.

"Monuments don't collapse in one single day, all of a sudden," he said. "It takes much more time. They suffer a long degradation primarily depending upon human neglect. It's the decades-long human carelessness that yields in time disastrous outcomes. Then, of course, the rain and weather deal the heavy, final blow and the unstable historical sites crumble to pieces."

The Pompeii collapses have matured across time in a sort of domino-effect that adds human heedlessness, smog and pollution to nature's disastrous effects, Bruni said.

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