Italy woos Chinese to help restore crumbling treasures

Italy is looking to Chinese investors to secure the future of many of its crumbling archaeological sites.

Italy woos Chinese to help restore crumbling treasures
The Bourbon palace at Caserta is one of the sites looking for cash. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Italian Culture Minister Dario Franceschini flew to China on Tuesday in order to promote a new system that will offer Chinese investors generous tax breaks if they invest in Italy's under-funded cultural sites.

The scheme will hand investors tax reductions of up to 65 percent if they pour cash into Italian heritage and will only be available to Chinese companies with registered offices in Italy.

“Attracting foreign investment has been, and will continue to be, one of the driving forces of this ministry,” Franceschini said in a statement on Wednesday.

There are seven key sites currently seeking substantial investment, including Emperor Hadrian's summer villa outside Rome, the Etruscan tombs of Cerveteri, the Greek temples in Agrigento and the former residence of the Bourbon kings of Naples in Caserta, Campania.

Italy's treasures are beset by funding shortfalls which are in no small part down to the incredible volume of historic sites the country has to maintain.

With 52 world heritage site, the country is the most Unesco-rich in the world. However, its sluggish economy has seen successive governments slash the culture budget. 

In addition, corruption and mismanagement has caused millions to disappear into thin air.

Earlier this year, it emerged houses were being rented for as little as €5 a month in the grounds of Caserta's Bourbon palace.

Italy is increasingly turning to the private sector to fund much-needed restorations.

Rome's Trevi Fountain recently underwent a €2.2 million face-lift funded by the fashion house, Fendi, and the Spanish Steps are currently being spruced-up by designers Bulgari.

During his time in Beijing, Franceschini also inaugurated a new programme aimed at attracting more Chinese visitors to Italy.

“A new scheme called 'China Friendly' will try to improve the offering of Italy's cultural destinations for Chinese visitors,” the Ministry said.

“It will also create new links between museums, towns and cities in both countries a bid to open up new destinations.”

The number of Chinese tourists visiting Italy has increased sharply in recent years and the Chinese are now the seventh largest national demographic visiting Italy, with over 2.2 million spending time in the country in 2014.

With the number of Chinese tourists on the rise, Beijing policemen were even called in to patrol top tourist sites in Milan and Rome earlier this year, in an attempt to help their travelling countrymen feel safer.  

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German tourists among 13 dead in Italy cable car accident

Thirteen people, including German tourists, have been killed after a cable car disconnected and fell near the summit of the Mottarone mountain near Lake Maggiore in northern Italy.

German tourists among 13 dead in Italy cable car accident
The local emergency services published this photograph of the wreckage. Photo: Vigili del Fuoco

The accident was announced by Italy’s national fire and rescue service, Vigili del Fuoco, at 13.50 on Sunday, with the agency saying over Twitter that a helicopter from the nearby town of Varese was on the scene. 

Italy’s National Alpine and Speleological Rescue Corps confirmed that there were 13 victims and two seriously injured people.

Italian daily Corriere della Sera reported that German tourists were among the 13 victims.

According to their report, there were 15 passengers inside the car — which can hold 35 people — at the time a cable snapped, sending it tumbling into the forest below. Two seriously injured children, aged nine and five, were airlifted to hospital in Turin. 

The cable car takes tourists and locals from Stresa, a resort town on Lake Maggiore up to a panoramic peak on the Mottarone mountain, reaching some 1,500m above sea level. 

According to the newspaper, the car had been on its way from the lake to the mountain when the accident happened, with rescue operations complicated by the remote forest location where the car landed. 

The cable car had reopened on April 24th after the end of the second lockdown, and had undergone extensive renovations and refurbishments in 2016, which involved the cable undergoing magnetic particle inspection (MPI) to search for any defects. 

Prime Minister Mario Draghi said on Twitter that he expressed his “condolences to the families of the victims, with special thoughts for the seriously injured children and their families”.

Infrastructure Minister Enrico Giovannini told Italy’s Tg1 a commission of inquiry would be established, according to Corriere della Sera: “Our thoughts go out to those involved. The Ministry has initiated procedures to set up a commission and initiate checks on the controls carried out on the infrastructure.”

“Tomorrow morning I will be in Stresa on Lake Maggiore to meet the prefect and other authorities to decide what to do,” he said.