The scandal over conditions at the ancient Roman city of Pompeii has yet to die down since a structure known as the “School of the Gladiators” collapsed there in early November. At least three other major collapses occurred in the past two months. Italy’s President Giorgio Napolitano has called the situation a “national disgrace”; opposition parliamentarians continue to press for Culture Minister Sandro Bondi’s resignation; and in mid-December, prosecutors announced that they were investigating nine people, including Pompeii’s former superintendent, to see whether they should be charged with criminal neglect…
Recent events have thus revived a long-running national debate over why Italy cannot take better care of its rich cultural heritage. Many commentators have stressed funding shortages, noting that governments of both the right and the left have cut culture spending over the past decade. Italy’s leading financial newspaper, Il Sole 24 Ore, has even suggested that Pompeii turn to corporate sponsors like Ferrari and Coca-Cola, which might pay for the chance to associate their brands with the ruins they help preserve. Later this month, the Italian government is expected to approve tens of millions of euros in emergency funds to address the Pompeii crisis.
Francis X. Rocca
Wall Street Journal