Tuesday 2 November 2010

Horse racing in ancient Pompeii

Over the weekend the Mayor of Pompei announced his new idea for holding horse races within the archaeological site. Similar initiatives (including building film sets) have been proposed by the town council over the years in an attempt to increase visitor numbers (and therefore - in theory - to increase spend of the tourist dollar in the modern town of Pompei, although the link between the two has not been demonstrated). These have generally been turned down in the past by the Soprintendenza as not being appropriate for the ancient city or compatible with its conservation (although some have been accepted: e.g. wine growing in some gardens). Sadly a lack of real dialogue between the local council and the heritage authority, nor any real understanding of how to make tourism at the Vesuvian sites sustainable (i.e. economically profitable to the wider local community while not damaging the heritage resources) means that there continues to be huge press coverage over such issues that blame the Soprintendenza for being uncooperative. Surely the question is not how to attract more visitors (2.5 million people pound the site each year already - is a Roman city not enough on its own?), but how to encourage them to stay in the area longer by offering more quality accommodation, restaurants, shops and other attractions, instead of visitors running scared to the perceived safe haven of Rome or Sorrento after a day in Pompeii.

Anyway, enough personal opinions - you can read more about the Mayor's plans in the newspaper Il Mattino and even vote on whether you think horse racing through the ancient city is a good idea or not.

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