The collapse of an ancient house in Pompeii could be just the beginning.
After a bout of heavy rains, a house that once belonged to gladiator Marcus Lucretius Fronto, collapsed this weekend. The house, along with the other structures in Pompeii, was covered in cascading ash when the nearby Vesuvius volcano erupted in 79 AD. The ash blanketed the Roman town, preserving the structures–and some of its inhabitants. The site has since been somewhat restored and has become a renowned archeological site. (See what other volcanoes made TIME’s top 10 volcano list.)
Now Italy’s Culture Minister Sandro Bondi is warning that the collapse of the gladiator’s former home wasn’t only due to bad weather but also improper restoration and that other structures in Pompeii are in danger of a similar fate.
Even more alarming, heritage experts are claiming that other monuments in Italy are in danger of collapsing, including Bologna’s twin towers, Florence’s Cathedral and Nero’s Golden House in Rome. Even the Colosseum has seen serious deterioration this year, when a slab of plaster fell from its wall. (See photos of some these sites in TIME’s photos of Rome.)
According to the AFP, the National Archaeological Association compiled a list of Italy’s most ancient sites in May and deemed them all either unprotected from weather or in a serious state of disrepair. “Negligence and a lack of the most basic maintenance is causing irreversible damage to our archeological patrimony,” said Tsao Cevoli, head of ANA.
Some are calling for the privatization of certain sites, others are calling for more commitment (and funds!) to be given to restoration, others are simply pleading that the Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, halt the cuts he’s made to the country’s cultural budget.
Could this really be the beginning of the end for some of the world’s most staggeringly beautiful sites? If so, it’s probably best to get to Italy while you can before it’s too late. (via AFP)