Pompei (Italy) (AFP)
Three superb Roman houses at the archaeological site of Pompeii, near Naples in southern Italy, reopened to the public on Tuesday as part of an ambitious "security" plan funded 75% by the European Union.
Even if this plan of 105 million euros, launched in 2014 after serious collapses, is completed, neither maintenance work nor excavations will end on this immense 44 hectare site protected by Unesco.
"Maintenance work is constant in Pompeii because it is a city in ruins", explained during a press visit Massimo Osanna, general manager of the second most important Italian tourist destination, with four million annual visitors, just behind the Colosseum in Rome.
"It is a fragile city, you can never stop taking care of it," said Osanna, who oversaw the five years of work in Pompeii, buried in lava and ash by the eruption. of Vesuvius in the year 79.
The works consisted of consolidating walls and structures, protecting buildings from bad weather, repairing the foundations of certain buildings, ridding them of hazardous renovations of the 70s or 80s and strengthening remote monitoring.
The plan also enabled new restorations like those of the three domus, these dwellings of the high society of ancient Rome unveiled Tuesday in the presence of the Minister of Culture Dario Franceschini.
Many of the frescoes in these domus have been covered for decades with a thick layer of dirt. "You have to be careful not to remove everything. You have to work step by step," explained one of the restaurateurs present on the spot, Aldo Guida, to AFP, carefully scraping the surface of a wall of the famous "rouge". Pompeii "from the" House of Chaste Lovers ".
La Domus, a rare example of a two-story domus closed for 40 years after the terrible Irpinia earthquake (more than 2,700 died in 1982), takes its name from an inscription found on its walls: "lovers as bees wish a life as sweet as honey. "
- 3,000 dead -
The volcanic ash spewed 2,000 years ago by Vesuvius sedimented on most of the houses of Pompeii, which made it possible to preserve them almost entirely, as did many of the bodies of the 3,000 dead caused by the disaster.
Two other domus have reopened to the public: the Orchard House, decorated with frescoes with lush fruit trees and magnificent birds, as well as that of the Europe Ship, showing the graffiti-like design of a large merchant ship.
In 2013, faced with frequent collapses on the site due to lack of maintenance and severe weather, Unesco had threatened to remove Pompeii from its list of protected sites and called for drastic measures to protect it.
The plan put in place the following year made it possible not only to save it, but also to carry out new excavations in areas neglected until then. And even if Pompeii has often been looted, many treasures still remain to be discovered.
"In order for Pompeii to be safe, we must continue to excavate. Many places remained unexplored in the 19th century," said Mr. Osanna, stressing that these virgin areas with their shifting soil are putting pressure on the foundations of areas already explored, threatening their stability.
Recent excavations in Pompeii have notably revealed in 2018 an inscription which proves that the city was destroyed after October 17, 79 AD, and not on August 24 as previously thought.
In October, archaeologists also uncovered a fresco depicting a gladiator in armor standing, victorious in front of his injured and covered in blood. The building which shelters it was undoubtedly a tavern frequented by combatants and prostitutes.
"When you do excavations in Pompeii, there are always surprises," said Osanna, who says he is certain that research in unexplored areas will lead to "extraordinary discoveries".
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