Pompeii, once a thriving and sophisticated Roman city and now a vast archeological site in southern Italy, has finally reopened the House of Lovers to the public 40 years after it was severely damaged by an earthquake in 1980, reports Smithsonian Institution’s official journal, Smithsonian Magazine.
The Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Tourism of Italy has announced that two other buildings, the House of the Orchard and the House of the Ship Europa, are also ready to welcome visitors along with the House of Lovers.
The House of Lovers
The House of Lovers is one of the most famous buildings in Pompeii, which was buried by volcanic ash and pumice during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79. The House of Lovers is the only domus (a type of house or place of business occupied by the upper classes in ancient Rome) whose second floor was still preserved almost in entirety.
Wanted in Rome, a monthly magazine for expatriates in Rome, also mentioned that The House of Lovers is believed to have been a brothel. There are images representing fish, landscapes, and life after 62 BC. Beside its entrance, a Latin inscription reads, “Amantes, ut apes, vita(m) mellita(m) exigunt. Velle.” This translates to English as “Lovers like bees pass a sweet life like honey. I wish it were so.”
Italy’s culture minister Dario Franceschini said the restoration of the three domus dwellings is a story of “redemption” and “rebirth,” and it is a model for all of Europe when it comes to the management of the EU funds.
Restoration of the domus dwellings as an EU Project
The restoration of the three domus dwellings, including the House of Lovers, is a part of the $140 million Great Pompeii Project funded by the EU. The purpose of the campaign is to restore the city to its former glory. The excavation started in the 19th century but ruins continued to face problems, such as vandalism, flood damage, and feral dogs. Last September, Pompeii also suffered from climate change, underfunding, mismanagement, corruption, age, collapses due to downpour, and neglect, according to the Smithsonian magazine.
In 1980, the Irpinia earthquake caused severe damage to the House of Lovers. Years after the disaster, the structure became too dangerous to enter even for the experts. Now, after the restoration efforts, including floor and roof stabilization, the building is safe for the public to explore. Some artifacts can be found in The House of Lovers, including bone hinges, a bronze lamp, and a basin. These are on view in the first-floor atrium of the building.
The two other houses were also restored in the same style as the House of Lovers. The House of Orchards was restored not only to improve the state of its painted wildlife, fruit trees, and gardens. When it was still under restoration in 2019, the plan was to add innovative LED lighting to eliminate the wavebands that could potentially modify the natural beauty of the fine frescoes that adorn the wall. Paintings of cherry trees, pears, plums, strawberry trees, and lemons were designed in precision. On the other hand, the structure of the House of the Ship of Europa, depicting a cargo ship, shows evidence of various extensions and modifications.
The suspected brothel is expected to be more accessible to visitors. In a press conference, Franceschini said that they are completing the plan to create a railway hub although there are still challenges that have to be addressed around hospitability and transport.
Italy’s income of State monuments and archeological sites: statistics
Database company Statista states that the State monuments and archeological areas in Italy reached about 2.6 billion euros in January 2018 and slightly decreased to 2.2 million euros in February. A month after that, it surged to 3.9 million euros and then 8.5 million euros in April 2018. These archeological sites and monuments managed by the Italian government also registered a total income of roughly 9.3 million euros in May of the same year, 8.3 million euros in June, 8.2 million euros in July, 8.9 million euros in August, 9.5 million euros in September, 8.2 million euros in October, 3.7 million euros in November, and 3.2 million euros in December 2018.
Rome remains the most popular tourist destination, attracting nearly 27 million visitors or 6.4% of the total visitors. This is followed by Milan and Venice (both 2.8%), Florence (2.4%), and Rimini (1.8%).
Tourism in Italy
Historical chart platform covering global stock, real estate market, and economic indicators Macrotrends likewise shares that Italy’s tourism statistics for tourism reached 44,548,000,000.00, a 10.34% increase from 2016. In 2016, it was 40,373,000,000.00, a 2.42% increase from 2015. An anti-tourism movement in Italy, though, said that however profitable the influx of tourism is, it still takes a toll on the quality of life of the locals and affects the survival of the heritage sites in Italy. Tourist destinations can suffer from overcrowding and impact livability, they said. In December 2018, there were an estimated 63,195,203 tourist arrivals in Italy.
The spending of international tourists
The spending of international tourists in Italy reached 40.5 billion euros in 2017, 42.5 billion euros in 2018, 43.7 billion euros in 2019, and is expected to reach 44.8 billion euros this year. This is according to Statista.
Pompeii is one of the sites that is struggling with a high number of visitors. Adele Lagi of UNESCO said via Italy’s daily The Local that "Cruise-tourists are wearing out the ruins of Pompeii.” She said that the entrance steps of the Temple of Apollo, for instance, have been ruined because of the large number of tourists. Lagi suggested using social networks to divert some tourists to other archeological sites nearby, which are less crowded but are just as impressive.
Every year, nearly 3 million tourists set foot in Pompeii, she said. However, there is untapped potential in Herculaneum, which receives only 300,000 tourists annually, and the Villa Poppea, with only 30,000 tourists ever year. In a conference, they also discussed building a railway at Pompeii so that it will connect the ancient site to other major cities in Italy.
Now that The House of Lovers and two other domus dwellings are restored, this means that the number of tourists can redirect their itineraries within Pompeii.