POMPEII, ITALY – Conservation workers at the long-neglected Roman city of Pompeii began a €105 million ($142 million) makeover partly funded by the EU on Wednesday, a day after former site managers were put under investigation for corruption.
The project, which is being funded to the tune of €41.8 million from the European Union and is to be completed by 2015, is seen as crucial to the survival of Pompeii after a series of collapses at the 44-hectare site in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius.
The giant erupting volcano devastated Pompeii nearly 2,000 years ago in A.D. 79, but the ash and rock helped preserve many buildings almost in their original state, as well as enveloping the curled up corpses of victims of the disaster.
The hugely popular site near Naples has come to symbolize the decades of mismanagement that have plagued many of Italy’s cultural treasures, as well as the fallout from austerity cuts that have eaten into its budgets for culture.
The repairs are aimed at reducing the risk of exposure to the elements, reinforcing ancient buildings, restoring its famous frescoes and increasing video surveillance at the site, where security has been lax for years.
The work that began Wednesday was on two ancient Roman homes — one known as the Criptoportico and the other as the Casa dei Dioscuri, one of the most finely decorated buildings in the ruins.
Pompeii, a UNESCO World Heritage site, provides a snapshot of daily life in Roman times and includes such gems as the famous Villa of Mysteries, which is decorated with frescos that appear to show a woman’s initiation ceremony into a cult.