EU approves €105m for restoration of Pompeii
The European Union launched a €105 million restoration of the Roman city of Pompeii yesterday and said it would seek to protect conservation funds from the mafia.
The project began a day after police arrested a restorer on suspicion of pocketing hugely inflated fees for work at the crumbling world heritage site that was declared to be in a state of emergency in 2008 due to its deterioration.
The money will pay for a new drainage system, the reinforcement of some structures and staff training, and includes "a variety of measures to protect itself from the influence of organised crime - the Camorra - which infects many parts of the region", the European Commission said.
The Camorra is the local mafia, which thrives on trafficking, extortion and government contract frauds in and around Naples, the largest city in southern Italy, 25km from Pompeii. Police are investigating former managers at Pompeii whom they suspect of paying inflated prices for restoration work. One contract originally priced at €449,882 ended up costing almost €5 million and many works were not essential, prosecutors said.
Italy declared a state of emergency in Pompeii in 2008 after archaeologists complained about poor upkeep, mismanagement and lack of investment.
The town, buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD79 until its rediscovery in 1748, attracts 2.3 million tourists a year, but suffered further serious damage in torrential rainfall in 2011.
The EU's regional fund spent €7.7 million at Pompeii from 2000-2006, but just five individual sites are open due to damage, compared to 64 in 1956. EU Regional Affairs Commissioner Johannes Hahn said he had taken an interest in the restoration since the 2010 collapse of the House of the Gladiators, used by the warriors before fights in the nearby amphitheatre.