The ancient Roman city of Pompeii is to get a 105-million euro ($142-million) makeover.
Called the “Grand Pompeii Project,” the overhaul is being funded by the European Union (EU), and will provide vital rejuvenation to the 44 hectare site after a string of corruption scandals and consistent under-investment.
The ancient city was devastated when the Mount Vesuvius volcano erupted nearly 2,000 years ago in 79 AD. Since then, ash and rock have preserved Pompeii’s original buildings and the corpses of the many victims found.
Located near to Naples in Southern Italy, Pompeii is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a massively popular tourist site.
The much needed repairs will work on reducing the exposure to the elements risk of the ancient Roman buildings. Work will also be done to restore Pompeii’s famous frescoes and increase CCTV surveillance at the site for security.
According to Agence France-Presse, in addition to culture budget cuts in the wake of government austerity measures, one of the other reasons why the site became so run-down was due to the corruption of the officials who used to run it.
On Tuesday, Italian police announced they were opening an investigation into Marcello Fiori, a former director of the site who was installed in office in 2009 by the controversial former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
The previous restoration work supervisor, Luigi D’Amora, has been accused of fraud, while another former contractor, Annamaria Caccavo, has been placed under house arrest for inflating work costs.
The new monies will now be managed by a “steering committee” with the assistance of the Italian government and EU representatives to ensure that the funds are properly spent, FinChannel reports.
An inauguration ceremony for the “Grand Pompeii Project” will be attended today by numerous interior and culture ministers.
Such is the optimism about the upgrade that the European Regional Policy Commissioner Johannes Hahn, told Italian news agency ANSA that the project could be a “model” for cultural spending in the European Union.
The European Commission estimates the number of tourists at the site could increase from around 2.3 million a year to 2.6 million by 2017, AFP reports.