chapter  6
66 Pages

2002–2006: Consequences of Preservation

Set against the drone of continued debates about the Sassi and their reuse, renovation continues. UNESCO’s international approbation has generated local optimism and interest in the site, inspiring private investment in the project. Renovation fervor’s physical impact takes the ironic though predictable form of dramatic alterations and a significant loss of cultural and physical heritage. The Sassi, especially in the more developed Barisano zone, have largely lost their appearance of antiquity. No longer the romantic ruins of a pre-industrial society, heavily renovated areas reflect the aesthetic values of their contemporary residents more than they do those of the past. The Sassi are being remade in the images of their new inhabitants and of hoped-for tourists (marble floors, sunken tubs, high-style furnishings). For example, the Locanda di San Martino (designed by Guida and colleagues), a three-star hotel in the Sassi that opened in 2003, labels the hot and cold water taps in guest rooms with the English letters “H” for hot and “C” for cold instead of the Italian “C” for caldo and “F” for freddo (English being the language of international travel). Its elevator and elegant cistern swimming pool and spa cater to the sybaritic expectations of affluent guests, despite the foreignness of these elements to the Sassi. Are the changes consistent with the Sassi’s millennia of change, or do they-as some critics have stated-alter them beyond recognition and efface their history?1 Does saving the Sassi mean reinhabiting them and reusing them for contemporary needs (the direction that the preservation program has chosen) or does it mean ossifying them as a museum? These questions restate the 50-year-old debate about what to do with the Sassi, which in turn reflects contrasting appraisals of their value.