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Italy's heritage under the spotlight

Italy's heritage under the spotlight
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While UNESCO has given the Italian government six months to report on the conservation progress of the troubled Pompeii archaeological site, lesser known historical treasures in the area could also be in danger.

Such as Oplontis, where the ruins of Villa A – sometimes known as Villa Poppaea – are considered among the most beautiful in Italy today.

Some fear that if the Pompeii area loses the ‘stamp’ of world heritage site, there could be ripple effect for other smaller sites.

Evidence suggests that Villa A was owned by first century Emperor Nero and believed to have been used by his second wife, the notorious Poppaea Sabina, when she was not in Rome.

It is threatened by humidity – in particular the painted walls and mosaic floors.

Recently archaeloogists have shed new light on the original site of the house, believing it changed during the eruption of Vesuvius.

Geologist Elda Russo Ermolli said: “Poppea’s villa in Oplontis had a panoramic location with a view of the gulf of Naples, in fact it was located right above the sea, on a cliff that was about 15 metres high. This cliff was terraced, with gardens that allowed access to the villa even from the shore.”

The villa is known for its sheer size and magnificent frescos, but also for its gardens and Olympic sized swimming pool.

But for all its attractions and great age, Villa A barely registers on the tourist trail, leading to uncertainty over its future.

> See our report: Who pays the bill for Italy’s cultural heritage?

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