Saving Pompeii From the Ravages of Time and Tourists





Citing threats to public security and to the site itself, the Italian government has for the first time declared a yearlong state of emergency for the ancient city of Pompeii.

Nearly 2,000 years after Mount Vesuvius buried Pompeii under pumice and steaming volcanic ash, some 2.6 million tourists tramp annually through this archaeological site, which is on Unesco’s World Heritage list.

Frescoes in the ancient Roman city, one of Italy’s most popular attractions, fade under the blistering sun or are chipped at by souvenir hunters. Mosaics endure the brunt of tens of thousands of shuffling thongs and sneakers. Teetering columns and walls are propped up by wooden and steel scaffolding. Rusty padlocks deny access to recently restored houses, and custodians seem to be few and far between.

This month the government drafted a retired lawman, Renato Profili, the former prefect of Naples, to map out a strategy to combat neglect and degradation at the site. Mr. Profili has been given special powers for one year so he can bypass the Italian bureaucracy and speedily bolster security and stop the disintegration.

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