Special Report: Preserving Italy’s Past

2 mins read

In the wake of Italy’s catastrophic earthquake, Tracy Roberts, vice-president of LoveItaly, considers the present and looks to the future.

The medieval church at Amatrice: before and after the August 2016 earthquake.


On 24 August, an earthquake roughly 100km north-east of Rome, with a magnitude of 6.2, devastated a string of mountain towns and villages in central Italy. With a death toll nearing 300, this is first and foremost a human tragedy, and the Italian authorities are working with unprecedented professionalism to offer assistance to the survivors.

No less impressive has been the work of the civil protection units, conscious of the need to safeguard damaged cultural heritage assets in these settlements. For example, Amatrice – one of the worst-affected towns – has a major archive in its now damaged medieval church. As I write, it is being protected with a temporary cover ahead of the autumn rains. Meanwhile, Italy’s museums are donating their entrance fees to the recovery. The swift and effective reaction not only to the victims of the earthquakes but also damaged cultural heritage is an index of a new Italian sensibility in every respect. Over the past year, the Ministry of Culture has revolutionised its strategy towards Italy’s peerless patrimony. New international directors have been appointed to museums like the Uffizi and the temples at Paestum. The shake-up has continued with an array of other new regulations and proposals.

New archaeological parks have been designated at sites such as Herculaneum. A new generation of administrators and marketeers, matched by new opening hours at many places, are testament to the government’s fast-growing seriousness.

Part of the renewed energy, of course, comes from Italy’s many locals who treasure their monuments just as fervently as those expats who long ago fell in love with the country’s great patrimony. And amid the new galaxy of independent, cultural initiatives is our venture: LoveItaly.

SOS: save our sites

LoveItaly was founded in late 2014 as a (US-style) non-profit association. It was created by a group of enthusiasts from diverse professional backgrounds – Italians and foreigners – who are passionate about Italy’s cultural heritage and seek to make the conservation of the country’s outstanding artistic treasures their main focus. The initial inspiration came from the archaeological and conservation consultancy work of the tireless Richard Hodges (President of the American University of Rome and CWA regular), one of the founding members of the organisation.

To achieve its monetary goal – collecting funds for various projects – we are seeking to engage a worldwide network of people, passionate about sustaining culture and willing to help support their interest in Italian art and culture by making donations through LoveItaly’s crowdfunding platform. Our goal is to inspire the public to use cultural heritage in a democratic and participatory way. Our mission is to create an international movement to bring Italy’s cultural treasures into the heart of the world community. The objective is to make everyone active stakeholders in protecting and sustaining a heritage that, after all, belongs to all humanity.

Our growing roster of funded projects ranges from conservation initiatives at Pompeii to Tina Panella’s staggering dig for the University of La Sapienza, Rome, on the side of the Palatine Hill. Excavating in shafts below the huge Republican and Imperial buildings – within the shadow of the Arch of Constantine and the Colosseum – the irrepressible Prof. Panella has unearthed traces of some of the site’s very earliest huts and graves. Many metres down, these late Bronze Age post-built structures coalesced to form one of the several such villages occupying each of the celebrated seven hills.

In the face of general cuts for university digs, LoveItaly is making sure that Prof. Panella can finish her ten-year campaign, and as a result adds a major chapter to the story of the world’s most famous city. Do come on board: together we can make a difference to Italy’s heritage. Visit our website at http://loveitaly.org for further details of how to get involved.

Images: LoveItaly

This is an extract from a feature published in CWA 79.  Read on in the magazine or click here to subscribe.

Tina Panella’s dig on the Palatine Hill, which got under way thanks to the supporters of the LoveItaly charity.

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