Looking at heritage tourism in Italy

While we work on plaster, plumbing and heating at the historic Kump House, I often wonder if it is worth so much effort to save an old building. However, our recent trip to Italy allowed me to gain a little perspective on preservation tourism. If our generation tears down all buildings that approach 100 years of age, how will future generations know how people lived in the 20th Century?

Rome is definitely a place where people built monumental buildings and many have been preserved. The Colosseum (AD 80) stands as one of the Seven Wonders of the World; however, many stones from that great amphitheater were removed to build churches and palaces during the renaissance. Finally, the Pope declared it a sacred place in honor of Christian martyrs who may have died there. According to Fodor’s Essential Italy, later scholars believed that the martyrs died elsewhere. Nevertheless, changing policy made preservation possible for half of the Colosseum.

The historic Vatican is a tiny independent state where the Pope lives within the City of Rome. There Michaelangelo’s painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and his marble statues remain. They stand as evidence of renaissance appreciation for the remarkable beauty of the human body and the quest for human achievement.

In Pompeii and Ostio Antica, ancient ruins remain from homes, markets and government buildings where people lived and interacted before their cities were destroyed. The volcano and flood that destroyed these two towns also preserved them under ground. Now tourists see artifacts and realize that ancient people built complex cultures using technologies that we no longer use or understand.

Cinque Terra is the name for five fishing towns in the mountains along the rocky coast of the Ligurean Sea. These Italian towns have been preserved as a national park, and visitors can hike between them or ride on tour boats in this remote part of the Mediterranean Sea docking at the historic fishing harbors. Preservation tourism is a lucrative business in quaint little towns where owners are required to preserve old buildings and use paint that fits in with the pastel colors that were traditionally used on the stucco and brick walls of old and new buildings. Local people celebrate the beauty of their steep cliffs where the mountains meet the sea.

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