Italy’s Famous Monuments Hit By Austerity Measures

Hard 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]

Italian museums on strike November 12

If you’re going to be in Italy on November 12, you might want to sit at a cafe and order an extra espresso, because many of the tourist sights will be closed.

Workers at museums and archaeological sites across the country plan to shut their doors on November 12 to protest massive budget cuts to arts and culture programming to the tune of 58 million euros ($82.02 million) annually in 2011 and 2012. The cuts were approved by the national government this summer.

Actually, when you factor in all the cuts to local government, which of course got passed on to arts and culture funding, the figure is more like 1.1 billion euros ($1.5 billion) over the next two years.

The strike will also include other public institutions such as theatres and libraries. It’s unclear at this stage how many will participate, but considering recent large protests in places like Greece and France over austerity measures, Italy’s may be a big one.

[Photo of the statue Laocoön and His Sons in the Vatican Museum courtesy Damon Green via Gadling’s flickr pool. Chances are the Vatican Museum will remain open because it’s actually in another country!]