Scandal-rocked Pompeii finally gets a makeover
Official corruption. Mob protection rackets. A multi-million-dollar construction project.
What sounds like the latest Martin Scorsese movie is merely the latest chapter in the Italian city of Pompeii's tumultuous history.
Last week, Italian police made an arrest as part of investigations into management of the Pompeii UNESCO World Heritage Site, the ancient Roman city that was buried in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD.
In the same week, work on a new €105 million (US$141 million) Pompeii rescue and restoration project began.
The latest infusion of funds is the most recent attempt to address problems plaguing the Roman city of ruins, which though beautifully preserved by the ash and rock from the Mount Vesuvius volcano almost 2,000 years ago, has recently suffered from a series of collapses and scandals.
Due to damage caused by heavy rains and general mismanagement, Pompeii was declared to be in a state of emergency in 2008. Despite allocation of emergency funds and appointment of a special commissioner, the site has since continued on a course of decline.
The site attracts millions of visitor's each year, making it one of Italy's most popular tourist spots, yet walls and columns, including the well-known House of the Gladiators, have fallen to the ground in an embarrassing spectacle.
The new funding -- which includes €41.8 million (US$56 million) of EU regional funds -- will be used to consolidate structures around the site, build a water drainage system, improve restoration and train staff.
“I am delighted that we are using EU regional funds to help save a site which is important to the world, to Italy and above all to the region of Campania itself,” European Union Regional Policy Commissioner Johannes Hahn said in a press statement before an official visit to the ruins.
Officials have stressed that the makeover will commence with transparency, following the news that police have begun investigating former site managers and restorers for abuse of office and cost inflation.
“The project is also taking a variety of measures to protect itself from the influence of organized crime -- the Camorra -- which infects many parts of the region," stated the European Commission's press release, which added that the Italian Ministry of the Interior would be overseeing security and legal aspects of the project.
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