Controversies Italy

Investigation begins into neglect of Pompeii

Nine people to be questioned following extensive damage at the 2,000-year-old site

Ruins: a wall surrounding the House of the Moralist gave way

POMPEII. Nine people have been placed under investigation by the Italian authorities for neglect of the Pompeii site following the collapse of the House of the Gladiators in November, and more recently, damage done to the House of the Moralist when a wall gave way. The investigation is mainly focusing on those involved in the management of Pompeii before the state-backed commissioner Marcello Fiori— brought in to save the site in June 2008 with €79m funding—was appointed.

According to our sister paper Il Giornale dell’Arte, those set to be questioned by the public prosecutor about the “lack of safeguards” at the 2,000-year-old ruins include Pietro Giovanni Guzzo, former superintendent of Naples and Pompeii; site director Antonio Varone who oversaw the waterproof specifications of the House of the Gladiators (torrential rain made the ground unstable causing its concrete roof to fall through); Valerio Papaccio, head of technical services and the architect Paola Rispoli. The investigation is also set to examine Fiori’s tenure, which ended in July, including the financial cost of his regime.

The House of the Moralist reportedly collapsed because damp soil undermined the foundations. But two other structures have since fallen apart at the Pompeii site. A wall along one of the main streets, the Via Stabiana, crumbled, according to a statement from the temporary superintendent of Naples and Pompeii, Jeannette Papadop­oulos, while part of a side room in the House of the Small Lupanar, which was not open to the public, also fragmented. Papadopoulos said that such collapses were again due to the heavy rain.

Meanwhile, culture minister Sandro Bondi, who hoped to transfer the management of Pompeii to a new foundation with a board of trustees representing institutions with interests in the site, has been dealt a blow: the government may pursue another rescue plan instead. A spokesman for the culture ministry told The Art Newspaper: “The [idea] of a foundation is not under discussion at all. A statement released by Bondi, Stefano Caldoro [president of the Campania region] and Luigi Cesaro [president of the province of Naples] outlines plans to set up a task force of architects with extra [financial] resources to undertake emergency work on site, relaunch a competition (originally established in 2008) to hire archaeologists, and strengthen the powers of the superintendent.” The new plans were set to be presented to the Council of Ministers as we went to press.

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