“BUFALE ARCHEOLOGICHE”…. New Archaeological Commentary column in Il Giornale dell’Arte


An advantageous position

BUFALE ARCHEOLOGICHE Rendite di posizione_Appia Antica PriscillaHow many times have we passed monuments or archaeological ruins covered in scaffolding due to renovations and, after 5 or 10 years, we notice that the scaffolding is still there – as if like this, the site becomes «historicized», to use a term dear to fine arts councils – by now, ‘incorporated’ in the monument itself. And there are not just a few cases in which these structures, dismantled after years, have then dirtied the actual monument with rust. They explain that this is because the money for the renovation and the money for the scaffolding is made available at different times. Who waits for whom? But by now, we all know that Italian scaffolding is by nature long-lived, essentially forever. We don’t say this to glorify the inventor, Ferdinando Innocenti, descendant of Tuscan orphans, better known as the creator of the historic Lambretta. That is a price to pay for the famous protection (which should precede the desired improvement), trite terms that evoke the derision of Fruttero and Lucentini with that Italian highfalutin bureaucratic language or the Burosauri by Ambrogi?
The reality is that almost always they are just a waste and (exclusively?) of benefit to those who are hiring out the scaffolding. And that no Cottarelli has so far added up how much this is all costing us. The building in the photograph is a structure mounted more than 10 years ago on the Appian Way in Rome, around the mausoleum of Priscilla, beloved wife of the freedman Abascanto who died prematurely and best friend to Claudia, wife of the poet Statius, who described Priscilla’s husband’s despair in Silvae (V, 1). The monument has this framework because a piece of masonry of 90 cm was unsafe. Instead of consolidating it, it was deemed necessary to put in temporary safety, with an ambiguous identifying sign: «scaffolding under construction». It is by now old rusted scaffolding, already repainted, no longer in line with safety regulations and that can no longer protect the building from the damage made by ivy. But for 10 years, we taxpayers are paying for this scaffolding that is 20 metres long, 4 metres high, which hides and perhaps even damages a monument that belongs to us. It is likely that the rent (how much?) has cost us much more than a prompt repair would have done. Distraction? Forgetfulness? Neglect? Or an advantageous position?

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