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Does Italy care enough about its crumbling artistic treasures?

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Italy boasts the highest number of UNESCO World Heritage sites in the world

Italy doesn't know how to exploit treasures, and appears not to care about them, writes Silvia Marchetti

Editor’s Note: Silvia Marchetti is a Rome-based freelance reporter and writer. She covers finance, economics, travel and culture for a wide range of media. The views expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

CNN —  

Italians have a saying: “Too much of something cripples it.”

We’re overcrowded with so many frescoed churches, medieval castles and Roman ruins that we simply don’t know what to do with them, let alone care for a proper upkeep.

We’ve turned blind to their value and beauty.

Silvia Marchetti
Silvia Marchetti

There are nearly 5,000 “gems” scattered across the country, ranging from museums to archaeological areas and monuments.

Italy boasts the highest number of UNESCO World Heritage sites in the world – 50, several of which risk crumbling to the ground due to neglect and lack of public resources.

And there are another 42,000 that are at the mercy of mudslides, floods and natural calamities.

The UNESCO-listed Basilica of Assisi, where St. Frances’ tomb lies, is just the last of a series of national shames. Its frescoed walls by Renaissance masters including Giotto risk falling down and are badly in need of a restyle. In a desperate move the monks have launched a crowdfunding project to raise 500,000 euros. We’re talking of one of the biggest pilgrimage sites in the world – not to mention its artistic value.

I remember once an American colleague asking me: “But what does Italy do with its immense cultural heritage”?

Good question.