Is preserving Pompeii worth the time, effort and money?

Historic landmarks such as Pompeii reveal much to modern man about ancient history, but are they worth preserving? Photo: Bob Taylor

POMPEII, ITALYFebruary 12, 2013 – Over the centuries there have been many civilizations, but only one country can lay claim to civilizing the world twice: Italy.

First there was the Roman Empire and a thousand or so years later the Renaissance.

Add in the awesome influence of the Catholic church and Christianity, as evidenced by the overwhelming interest in Pope Benedict’s retirement, and there can be no mistaking about the on-going importance of Italy upon our contemporary lives.

When one considers the contributions Italy has made to the world of art and architecture over the  span of the last two-plus millennia, not to mention food and fashion as well as its historical impact, the magnitude of its weight upon  western culture is impossible to deny.  

Yet a society with such a well-established lineage always suffers from the effects of deterioration. Preserving the past for generations of that will follow is a daunting task, especially when there is such an abundance of riches to maintain.

The 17-foot sculpture of David by Michelangelo stood in a piazza outside Palazzo della Signoria for more than 350 years before being moved indoors to the Accademia Gallery in 1873. Fortunately, that was a relatively easy solution.

Then there was Pisa’s tower which became an international landmark because it leaned so severely. When it began to lean too much, there was grave concern that it might eventually fall.

The legendary canals of Venice have long been a source of fascination for visitors from around the world, until the city started sinking. Not only could one of the great architectural cities of the world be submerged beneath a watery grave, so too would thousands of irreplaceable works of art be lost forever.

The restoration process in Italy is continuous. Never-ending. Italy is a living museum and the preservation of its contributions to mankind is a monumental task.

Today the ancient port city of Pompeii, which was lost for nearly 1700 years following the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD, is in dire need of preservation.

Smothered beneath 13 to 20 feet of ash and pumice, Pompeii was rediscovered in 1748, and its excavations have been a popular tourism site for more than 250 years. Each year more than 2.5 million visitors explore the fascinating labyrinth of ruins of a once thriving Estruscan community.

In its heyday, before the eruption, Pompeii was an active and lively port. So violent and massive was the torrent of volcanic violence from Vesuvius that the city is now situated more than a mile from the sea.

Since archaeological digs began, carbon dating has shown that the city existed as far back at the 8th to the 6th centuries BC  Two other layers have been discovered over the ever-present excavations, including the first Roman pavement that dates to somewhere between the 4th and 2nd century BC.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Pompeii for first-time visitors is the size of the city which is said to have had as many as 20,000 inhabitants during its peak.

The importance of the information sites such as Pompeii reveal to us today should not be minimized regardless of the difficulty and expense to restore them. They represent a window into the past that is invaluable in comprehending the ancient world.

Sadly, Pompeii has recently become a victim of corruption by its former restorer Anneamaria Caccavo who has been placed under house arrest for allowing unnecessary work and overspending.

Since that time, the European Union has stepped in to provide more than $56-million through the auspices of the United National Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to ensure that Pompeii will continue to be maintained and preserved properly.

The Italian government declared a state of emergency in 2008 when the preservation process appeared unable to halt the steady decline in many of the structures. The new money for The Great Pompeii Project, as it is called, is expected fund the restoration process until its completion by 2015.

One key factor however, will be the professionalism of those who undertake the preservation process.

Meanwhile, though Vesuvius is continuously monitored for future volcanic activity, there are still concerns about another eruption which could come at any time. Though it would likely not be as massive as the eruption of 79 AD, the close proximity of Pompeii to the volcano, could still have devastating effects.

Nevertheless, the preservation of sites such as Pompeii, and others like it, are vital to our understanding of man’s involvement in the planet on which we live.

Peabod is Bob Taylor, owner of Taylored Media Services in CharlotteNCTaylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club, which creates, and escorts customized tours to SwitzerlandFrance and Italy for groups of 12 or more.

Inquiries for groups can be made at Taylored Media has produced marketing videos for British Rail, Rail Europe, Switzerland Tourism, the Swedish Travel & Tourism Council, the Finnish Tourist Board, the Swiss Travel System and Japan Railways Group among others.

As author of The Century Club book, Peabod is now attempting to travel to 100 countries or more during his lifetime. To date he has visited 71 countries. Suggest someplace new for Bob to visit; if you want to know where he has been, check his list on Facebook. Bob plans to write a sequel to his book when he reaches his goal of 100 countries. He also played professional baseball for four years and was a sportscaster for 14 years at WBTV, the CBS affiliate in Charlotte.


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Bob Taylor

Bob Taylor has been travel writer for more than three decades. Following a career as an award winning sports producer/anchor, Taylor’s media production business produced marketing presentations for Switzerland Tourism, Rail Europe, the Finnish Tourist Board, Japan Railways Group, the Swedish Travel & Tourism Council and the Swiss Travel System among others. He is founder of The Magellan Travel Club ( and his goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime.


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