Save Villa Borghese, Italy environmentalists cry

Thu Jul 29, 2010 11:49am EDT
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By Ella Ide

ROME (Reuters Life!) - Environmental and cultural heritage groups appealed to city officials Thursday to stop the "massacre" of Villa Borghese park by banning pop concerts and big screen events they say lure vandals and lager louts.

The villa's secret gardens, majestic terraces, sprawling lawns and statues of Byron, Victor Hugo and Goethe are at risk from the city's cash-making initiatives, the activists say.

"The city council continues to authorize events that are utterly incompatible with the area's historical value," said Lorenzo Parlati, head of the Rome branch of Legambiente, the national environmental group.

Once a must-see on the Grand Tour of Europe, it contains an 18th century artificial lake, dozens of monumental fountains and the Galleria Borghese museum, home to masterpieces by artists such as Bernini, Titian and Raphael.

Earlier this month, tens of thousands of soccer fans watched World Cup matches on big screens in the villa's Piazza di Siena equestrian show grounds and many left a trail of graffiti, beer cans and broken vuvuzelas in their wake.

Activists had urged the city not to grant permission for the venue to be used as one of FIFA's Fan Fest sites but were overruled. They have since launched a media campaign to draw attention to their concern for the park they love.

"The 50,000 high-spirited fans that came to watch the matches each evening not only left behind mounds of rubbish, but also defaced statues," Parlati told Reuters.

The council's decision to allow Italian singer Renato Zero to perfom there next month has prompted several environmental and heritage organizations to warn that they may take legal action against the city.   Continued...

<p>Clients of a Guatemalan rum distiller begin their descent after being suspended 50 metres for a dinner over Villa Borghese in Rome June 27, 2008.REUTERS/Chris Helgren</p>