ROME – The Italian government has tapped the man who handled the Naples garbage crisis to deal with another emergency — the shabby state of many ancient monuments in Rome.
Guido Bertolaso has been named special commissioner for the archaeological treasures in the Italian capital and nearby Ostia, the city's ancient port, the Culture Ministry said Tuesday.
The government also approved some $48 million in funding to restore monuments that have been partially or completely closed to the public and were further damaged by this winter's unusually heavy rains.
Bertolaso, whose term expires on Dec. 31, will focus on areas including the Palatine hill, which houses the residences of Rome's emperors; the Forum, the city's ancient power center; Emperor Nero's "Golden Palace" and the remains of ancient Ostia.
All these sites have been plagued by various problems, from poor funding and water damage to collapses and closures. Local archaeology officials hope that a special commissioner will be able to push through bureaucratic hurdles and get more work done.
Bertolaso, the head of the Civil Protection Department, has been Italy's point man for emergencies or major events for two decades, including preparations for the funeral of Pope John Paul II in 2005.
Last year Premier Silvio Berlusconi put him in charge of the Naples garbage crisis, when thousands of tons of trash built up on the city's streets after local dumps filled up.
The situation was somewhat eased by reopening some old dumps and shipping garbage to Germany in train convoys. In an effort to find a more long-term solution, the government ordered the construction of new dumps and incinerators in the Naples area.