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Massive restoration project launched for South's gems

'Most important action in Mezzogiorno for years' says minister

06 March, 20:03
Massive restoration project launched for South's gems (By Denis Greenan).

(ANSA) - Rome, March 6 - Italy on Thursday launched a massive restoration project for the rundown, neglected or merely under-used cultural gems of its poorer South that aims to be the biggest shot-in-the arm for the area's economy in decades, luring countless tourists to the magnificent achievements of Magna Graecia and the many storied successors to that high point of ancient Greek civilisation.

"This is the most important action that has been carried out in recent years on the Mezzogiorno's cultural heritage"said Culture Minister Dario Franceschini. The new 135-million-euro, 46 heritage sites renovation project for Southern Italy adds to the 222 million euros funnelled to the area for 87 similar projects six months ago, according to a new decree signed by Franceschini.

The new projects will be in the regions of Campania, Calabria, Puglia and Sicily, all of which can be immediately started according to the decree.

The region of Campania will benefit from a 43.1 million euro portion of the overall amount, which will be used to restructure sections of the Reggia di Caserta, or the Bourbon Royal Palace of Caserta, an exquisitely grand former residence of the kings of Naples and Sicily. Other works in the region will include those on the Reale di Carditello, an eighteenth century palace located on the Royal Estate of Carditello that once belonged to the Neapolitan Bourbon Monarchy. The "Villa Campolieto", a stunning Vesuvian historic building located in the municipality of Ercolano with its breath-taking sea view, the "Abbazia di Montevergine", a sanctuary for monks that has been awarded the status of national monument, and the "Castello di Francolise", a medieval castle built on the commission of a cardinal in the second half of the ninth century of irregular form, will also be involved in the scheme.

Meanwhile, some 26.8 million euros have been earmarked for the region of Calabria, to be used for the restructuring of fourteen local heritage sites. These include the castles of Svevo di Rocca Imperiale, Oriolo, Carafa di Roccelletta Ionica, and of Palizzi. The Archeological Site of Vibo Valentia will also be worked on, as will be the "Fortini di Pentimele", a series of ancient military fortresses with stunning views over the strait of Messina. In addition, the sanctuary of San Francesco di Paola will be renovated, as will be the church of San Giovanni Therestis.

The deterioration issues of the monumental complex of Sant'Agostino are also to be addressed, returning its church and adjacent convent to its former glories. The historic centres of the Calabrian cities of Catanzaro and Cosenza will also benefit from the funds, as will Gerace, a small urban centre with 2,715 inhabitants and a panoramic view of the sea often described as one of the most beautiful villages in Italy.

In the southern region of Puglia, a total of 31.8 million euros of works are planned, including ones to be carried out on the Contemporary Audio-visual Museum of Bari, and the restoration of the "Mura Urbiche" or historic city walls of the town of Lecce, which dates back at least 2,500 years and is the main town on Puglia's Salento peninsula and a major draw for national and international tourists.

The medieval "Torre Matta" tower in the portal area of Taranto, the ancient coastal grottos of the town of Tricase, which is characterized by the presence of stunning cliffs and caves formed by the erosive action of crystal sea waves over the centuries. The castle of Gallipoli will also be restored.

Religious heritage sites that are to benefit in the region of Puglia from the new government plan include the "Spirito Santo di Lecce" complex, the former convent of Santa Maria in Vieste. In addition, the Novoli castle, amongst others, is on the revamping list. Last but not least, the southern Italian island region of Sicily will be able to fund the renovation of its Siracusa-based museum structure, which include the Palazzo Bellomo gallery, the Paolo Orsi archaeological museum and the Neapolis archeological site, as well as those of Ragusa, including the Parco Forza and Cava d'Ispica archeological zones. The city of Trapani will see its Palazzo Pepoli regional museum restored to the status it enjoyed in happier times, and the same fate awaits the Baglio Anselmi archological museum and the Segesta archeological site. The government has agreed to finance some 33.7 million euros of heritage site works in Sicily, and the Bosco Littorio archeological site of the city of Gela, an ancient Greek commerce hub, is included on the waiting list for the subsidies.

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