Through nature and neglect, Italy's relics are falling into ruin

Italy is rich in ancient wonders, including the preserved ruins from the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 A.D. But the real wonder may be that so many of those wonders are still standing -- given the poor care they receive.

Volcano eruption buries Pompeii

Preserved under volcanic ash from a devastating eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D., and rediscovered in the 18th century, Pompeii is now crumbling — threatened by red tape and heavy rains.

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March 2, 2014: Bricks and rocks are seen on the ground after they collapsed from the Porta Nocera doorway, in the ancient Roman city of Pompeii, as a consequence of a rainstorm. Top Italian culture officials are calling for swift action to save the ancient Roman city, encased in volcanic ash, from further ruin. Read more

AP Photo/Salvatore La Porta

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March 3, 2014: Bricks and rocks are seen on the ground after a second section of wall around an ancient shop collapsed in Pompeii as a consequence of a rainstorm. The affected areas have all been closed to tourists.

AP Photo/Salvatore Laporta

Italy Pompeii Collapse

Nov. 30, 2010: A stretch of garden wall ringing an ancient house in Pompeii that gave way after days of torrential rain. Officials said an inspection found that a 40-foot-long section of the wall near the House of the Moralist gave way in several points. Read more

AP Photo/Salvatore Laporta

Gladiator Barracks

Nov. 6, 2010: A 2,000-year-old house in Pompeii, which was once used by gladiators to train before combat, collapsed Saturday. The site was closed at the time and nobody was injured, but the incident underscored a controversy over the poor state of one of Italy's main tourist attractions. Read more

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Collapsing City

"We're stunned when some walls fall down. But these are ruins not systematically maintained, so the miracle is that so few of them collapse," said Andrea Carandini, a world-renowned archaeologist who leads a panel of professional consultants in the Cultural Ministry, following the 2010 incident.

Pompeii Collapses

Workers stand among the debris of the collapsed house. Ironically, experts describe Italy as being a leader in preservation for pinpointing possible problems and drawing up a "kind of map of risk." Giorgio Croci, one of Italy's best-known engineers for structural problems, said the nation's know-how is so in demand that Turkey has commissioned him to study Istanbul's monuments for potential perils.

AP Photo/Salvatore Laporta

The Crumbling Colosseum

May, 2010: The famed Roman Colosseum -- an arena used for gladiator battles and other spectacles -- has survived earthquakes, lightning strikes and pillaging. Yet architects and engineers still fret about the architectural marvel, eroded by pollution, rattled by subway cars running nearby, and still suffering from centuries of poor drainage.

AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia

Arena of Gladiators

May, 2010: Three chunks of mortar broke off the famed Colosseum over the summer, hours before the symbol of the Eternal City opened its gates to tourists. In 2011, the Colosseum lost another piece, as restoration plans were delayed. Read more

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Nero's Decaying Palace

March 30, 2010: A huge segment of the now underground complex of Nero's fabled Golden Palace in Rome gave way, raining down pieces of vaulted ceiling in one of the galleries beneath a garden popular with strollers.

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Temple of Venus

Nov. 11, 2010: There are successes amid the disasters. The Italian government re-opened the Temple of Venus and Rome in the Roman Forum in late 2010, after 26 years of restoration works. The temple was first opened in 141 A.D. by the Roman Emperor Antonino Pio. All that remains today are a long series of columns and an arching vaults. 

AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia

Temple of Venus

Nov. 11, 2010: Journalists gathered in front of Rome's Temple of Venus and Rome to celebrate the reopening -- which came in the same week that the Ministry of Culture was harshly criticized following the collapse of the School of Gladiators. Some Italians have even called for the resignation of the Minister of Culture.

AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia

Resin Cast of a Pompeii Man

Italy has long grappled with its vast cultural and archaeological heritage, amid chronic shortage of funds, negligence and vandalism. Officials have had difficulty preserving Pompeii, which is visited by over 2 million people every year. In 2010, Italy's most influential paper, Corriere della Sera, ran an editorial headlined "The humiliation of Pompeii" in which it said cement works were damaging the ruins.

REUTERS/Tim Chong

Life in a Roman Town

Fissures are apparent in brickwork, and rainwater seeped through stone, forcing the closure in 2010 of much of Palatine Hill -- the once palatial home of Rome's ancient emperors. "We are tired of commenting on the continuous collapses and damage to the archaeological heritage of our country," said Giorgia Leoni, president of the Italian Confederation of Archaeologists in a statement after one such incident.

AP Photo/Wong Maye-E

Through nature and neglect, Italy's relics are falling into ruin

Italy is rich in ancient wonders, including the preserved ruins from the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 A.D. But the real wonder may be that so many of those wonders are still standing -- given the poor care they receive.

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