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Ashes to ashes: the latter-day ruin of Pompeii

Pompeii, the best-preserved Roman town in the world, still attracts millions of visitors. But its appalling state is a disgrace to Italy, Unesco and European civilisation

By Peter Popham   May 2010

At the ticket office at the entrance to Pompeii, the world’s greatest archaeological site, three women, two English and one Australian, are trying to make themselves understood. They have not come to look at the ruins. A few years ago, in a bid to tackle the “crisis” of Pompeii, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi declared the place a disaster zone and handed over control to a commissario straordinario as if, the archaeologists grumbled, Vesuvius had erupted last week and there was a humanitarian disaster under way. His choice for the job was Renato Profili, who (in the words of one insider)…

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