Just days after my own ruminations about how Rome tries to incorporate its ancient past into modern events, a spate of stories have highlighted the danger in doing so.
A Reuters story published today writes about how Legambiente, a national environmental group, is protesting Rome's use of the Villa Borghese, the lovely, historic park that's been used for concerts, festivals, and to host viewings of the World Cup. They say the trash and graffiti left behind is destroying the park, never mind the wear and tear of thousands of people -- and the big, heavy setups that such concerts and events usually require -- on the park's delicate gardens and 17th-century statues. I can't imagine they're wrong.
And the Associated Press writes about how vandals are destroying Rome, leaving anti-pope graffiti on the Scala Santa, knocking noses off of statues in the Protestant Cemetery, and dyeing the Trevi Fountain.
These issues are, of course, just the tip of the iceberg in a city where keeping up so many historic structures would be hard and costly enough even without thousands of people trampling through them. And so the question remains: Is it better to open up Rome's sites to modern use, or focus on preservation and conservation? And can they go hand in hand?
Examples of other recent events that stress sensitive sites -- but highlight them, too -- include:
Summer jazz concerts in Villa Celimontana, a 16th-century park strewn with ancient ruins
The swimming pool and resort on the top of the Celian hill, archaeologically sensitive for its ancient ruins and medieval churches
Summer opera in the ancient Baths of Caracalla
And the list goes on...