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A Provocative Campaign to Save Italy's Artworks

Few countries have as many monuments and works of art as Italy. But scores of buildings, paintings and sculptures throughout the country are deteriorating. Experts blame a lack of state funding. A nonprofit foundation is trying to shock Italians into taking responsibility for their unique art heritage.

The Italian cultural ministry's 2005 budget for upkeep and restoration of several hundred churches, palaces, convents and museums is slightly more than $30 million -- less than half the amount an independent study estimates is needed just for maintenance.

Italians are surrounded by so much art that many of them take it for granted. "I often saw people every day going to work not seeing the Coliseum and suddenly realizing when they have some people visiting them that there is the Coliseum," tour guide Giorgio Sansa says.

The private Foundation CittàItalia has decided to make Italians aware of what's at stake. It's running a TV spot showing famous landmarks without the monuments that made them famous: Rome without the Coliseum, Venice without the Bridge of Sighs, Pisa without the leaning tower.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Sylvia Poggioli is senior European correspondent for NPR's International Desk covering political, economic, and cultural news in Italy, the Vatican, Western Europe, and the Balkans. Poggioli's on-air reporting and analysis have encompassed the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, the turbulent civil war in the former Yugoslavia, and how immigration has transformed European societies.