Italy’s Famous Monuments Hit By Austerity Measures

ItalyHard economic times in Italy are threatening that country’s priceless cultural heritage.

The Times of Oman reports that billionaire Diego Della Valle said he’s thinking of withdrawing the 25 million euros ($33 million) he promised last year to restore the Colosseum, which has been crumbling due to lack of maintenance. An even more serious problem is Pompeii, which suffered a couple of spectacular collapses in 2010.

The Times reports that the government is increasingly looking to private investors to save the day, and is also promising to release 105 million euros ($138 million) from the European Union for a four-year maintenance plan for Pompeii.

Italy only spends 1.8 billion euros ($2.4 billion) annually on culture, just 0.21 percent of the gross domestic product and barely enough for basic maintenance. With tourism being a major portion of the Italian economy, it seems shortsighted not to preserve and restore the very sites that tourists come to see.

Not all news coming from Italy is bad. The government has finally cracked down on the fake Roman centurions and gladiators who prowl around the Colosseum, bullying tourists into taking pictures with them for exorbitant prices. The government says they are all ex-cons and are operating without a license. Some of the fake gladiators climbed onto the Colosseum to protest, showing that they care more about money than preserving their national heritage.

[Photo courtesy Adam Kahtava]

Telluride’s Hotel Madeline gives the gift of all-inclusive holiday ski packages

ski packages coloradoI don’t know about you, but all I want for Christmas is a ski holiday in Telluride, Colorado. Call me biased, but as an on-and-off resident for five years, I consider it the most beautiful, authentically Western ski town in the Rockies, and the top resort in the U.S..

When it comes to actual skiing, there’s 2,000-plus acres, never a lift line, and if you love steeps, off-piste, moguls, and serious pow, this is the place. Did I mention the annual average of 300 inches of snow and 300 days of sun? Located at the end of a box canyon in the heart of the San Juan Mountains in southwestern Colorado, Telluride is remote, but worth the effort to get there.

The actual “ski resort” area in Telluride is Mountain Village, a 15-minute ride up the free gondola, or a seven-mile drive up Hwy 145. Mountain Village is actually an incorporated town, an “affluent” community with a handful of luxury hotels and condos, rental homes, and McMansions, and shopping, dining and apres-ski venues. If you’re debating which town to stay in, it depends upon what you’re looking for. If you want a true local’s experience, and the convenience of being stumbling distance from apres-ski to dinner to bars to bed, choose Telluride. It’s also worth noting you can catch the gondola or two chairslifts if you stay in Telluride.

If you’re looking for a full-on luxury ski holiday and a ski-in/out property (or one with a spa), get up to Mountain Village and book yourself into Hotel Madeline. The luxury property was rebranded in February, 2011, and it’s a gem. Done up in a quasi-Euro-mod style, it’s located in the heart of the Village, and offers spectacular mountain views from every angle.

With 100 condominium hotel rooms and 60, one-, two-, three-, and four-bedroom condo residences, the Madeline also features spacious, quiet rooms in soothing natural tones, spectacular customer service, the Spa Linnea, indoor heated pool and jacuzzi, a ski valet, the swanky Bar M (popular for apres-ski), fine-dining at M’s Restaurant, climate-controlled parking (these things matter, trust me), and free candy by the fistful in the hotel lounge. What’s not to love?

More to love are this ski season’s specials, which include an “All-Inclusive Holiday Package” of six nights in a King room; round-trip transportation to Montrose Airport (70 miles p/w); two, five-day lift passes; daily breakfast or dinner for two; Performance Package equipment rentals from on-site Neve Sports, and a resort credit of $100.00 for use in the hotel Spa, bar, or restaurant, or at 9545 Restaurant at venerable sister hotel Inn at Lost Creek, a few minutes walk away. Package price for two is $3,737.00/$1,868.50 p/p, valid December 19 through January 2, 2012, taxes included.

Other winter specials include the “Just One More Night” package: stay seven nights and receive eighth night free, as well as similar attributes to the Holiday Package; pricing for two from $6,500/$3,250.00 p/p. Valid December 19 through January 2, 2012, and February 17-25, 2012, taxes and gratuities included.

Check Hotel Madeline’s website for more specials applicable through the end of the season (April 8th), or go to the Inn at Lost Creek website for their ski season specials. There, all guests have access to complimentary daily ski waxing, edge de-burning, and on-slope valet service with immediate lift access and trail access, and individually-designed suites with stone fireplaces, jetted tubs and steam showers, and kitchenettes.

For more information on Telluride Ski Resort, click here.

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Budget cuts may axe Washington historic sites

Washington, washington, Tacoma, tacomaAs the Great Recession drags on, more and more state programs are feeling the pinch. This includes many sites of historic interest. In the latest budget announced by Washington Governor Chris Gregiore, the state’s three Historical Society museums will all have to close.

The State Capital Museum in the Lord Mansion in Olympia, and museums in Tacoma and Spokane, would all be affected. The governor has earmarked $2.4 million to maintain the sites and their archives, but it would cost twice as much to keep them open, The News Tribune reports.

The Lord Mansion is on the National Register of Historic Places and in addition to having a museum, it hosts many public events. The Washington State Historical Society Museum in Tacoma gets an average of 100,000 visitors a year.

To be fair to Governor Gregiore, she’s facing a serious problem. If she keeps the museums open, that means $2.4 million less for other programs, and then some non-travel-related blog would be complaining about her budget. But museums and historical societies are important parts of the community, not just for old-timers who want to reminisce and tourists interested in history, but newcomers who want some background on their surroundings. I’ve moved way too many times, and one thing I always do to get grounded is study the history of my new home.

I also do Civil War research, and that means I’ve seen the inner workings of many historical societies. One place you’ll often find me is the State Historical Society of Missouri. Once or twice a week my studies are interrupted by a crowd of schoolkids coming into the library to see the treasures of the archives. Some researchers grumble about this, but I’m always happy to see them come in. One object that always arouses interest is a long, thin map of the Mississippi River that unrolls like a scroll. Steamboat pilots used it to navigate the perilous waters of the river more than a century ago. The students are fascinated by it, not just because of its odd appearance but because of what it symbolizes. More than once I’ve overheard kids talking about what it would have been like to use the map to avoid sandbars, sunken logs, and dangerous currents just like Mark Twain did.

This historical society, like so many others, has had its share of budget cuts. They recently had to stop a theatrical series and a traveling lecture tour. Both were popular, but the society simply can’t afford them.

It would be a shame if they had to cut the tours. Missouri schoolkids wouldn’t get their imaginations fired by that map anymore.

[Photo courtesy Joe Mabel via Wikimedia Commons]

Egypt changes stance: King Tut’s tomb will stay open (for now)

Egypt, egypt
The famous tomb of King Tutankhamun in Egypt will remain open for the time being, the chief of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities Zahi Hawass announced.

While earlier this week he stated that it and two other tombs in the Valley of the Kings near Luxor would close by the end of the year, now he’s saying that they’ll close at some undetermined time in the future.

Egypt plans to build a Valley of the Replicas to show off exact duplicates of King Tut’s tomb and those of Seti I and Queen Nefertari. These and other tombs are suffering damage due to the large numbers of people passing through. The extra humidity from their breath is causing mold to grow and is damaging the ancient paintings that adorn the walls. The number of visitors to Tutankhamun’s tomb has already been limited to 1,000 a day, down from a peak of 6,000 a day.

Once the Valley of the Replicas is open, and there’s no set date for that yet, King Tut’s tomb will close to everyone except those paying an extra fee that will probably run into the thousands of dollars. The pharaoh’s mummy will remain in its tomb.

[Photo courtesy user Kounosu via Wikimedia Commons]

Scandal as hundreds of historic treasures go missing


An audit of the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission has revealed that more than 1,800 historic artifacts can’t be found. Officials aren’t sure what happened to them but assume many have been stolen and others misfiled.

Missing treasures include a Kentucky rifle like those pictured above, an Ottoman ring that’s almost 800 years old, one-of-a-kind paintings and photographs, and other irreplaceable objects.

Officials hope most are simply lost in the system, which has been added to for almost a century with various filing systems being in vogue at different times, making for much confusion and sometimes leaving an artifact with more than one accession number, or the same number being used for more than one object. Anyone who has worked with historic archives will be familiar with this annoying phenomenon. Archives and museums rarely have enough funding to do a complete overhaul of the system and therefore problems get compounded over the years. The Pennsylvania commission has been especially hard hit by budget cuts, seeing its funding reduced from $58 million to $26 million in the past four years.

Another problem is theft. Artifacts such as Civil War memorabilia or an image of Daniel Boone (another MIA) can attract big money in the illegal antiquities trade. This encourages thefts from Paris to Baghdad. I conduct research at Madrid’s Biblioteca Nacional and security there was upped a couple of years ago after they caught a guy cutting out 17th century maps from old atlases and selling them on the black market. This sort of selfishness is great for private collectors who don’t mind breaking the law, but bad for the general public who have their nation’s legacy taken from them.

[Photo courtesy Antique Military Rifles]