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]

Navy museum receives 111 year old pudding from the Boer War

One hundred and eleven years ago, a batch of Christmas pudding was made to cheer up a soldier fighting in the Boer War. While most would assume it would have been eaten long ago, it has actually turned up in a kitchen cupboard. The batch is thought to be one made by Victorian philanthropist Agnes Weston, often known as “the mother of the Navy” for her goodwill work writing to soldiers and sailors, visiting hospitals and prisons, and starting rest homes for sailors.

The pudding tin even contains the original instructions: “This pudding is ready for use but may be boiled for an hour if required hot”. Of course, being that the treat is way past its expiration date, it will not be served cold or hot but has been donated to the Royal Navy Museum in Portsmouth, Hampshire, United Kingdom.

The story of how the pudding was donated to the museum begins with a phone call from a woman who had found the tin in her kitchen cupboard. She knew that it had been in her deceased husband’s family for years, but did not know how much history it held, having actually been sent overseas from South Africa.

If you would like to check out the 111 year old pudding yourself, you can attend the Historic Dockyard’s Victorian Christmas Festival from November 25-27, 2011, where the exhibit will be on temporary display.

Try Mount Independence State Historic Site for History and Hiking

Perhaps you are one of those people who makes lists of where you might like to go some day. I have my own list. Thanks to a gadling reader who left a comment on my post on Harriet Tubman and Underground Railroad tours, I have another place to add. “Wise-guy” made a recommendation for Vermont’s Mount Independence State Historic Site for a history lesson and hiking adventure. It does look like a perfect blend of natural beauty and Ameria’s past.

Mount Independence once bustled during the Revolutionary War as the most important military compound in Vermont. These days, you can hike on trails through the remnants that include blockhouses, the hospital and various buildings that tell the tale of what life was like when 12,000 soldiers lived here. The scenery overlooking Lake Champlain offers views and the Visitors Center Museum tells more of Mount Independence’s story through artifacts and displays.

Just to let you know, the historic site is open seasonally. You’ll need to wait until late May before you go, but put this on your list of places to see. While you’re in the area, stop at Fort Ticonderoga in nearby New York. Wise-guy also included a link to the website