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Giuseppe Voza – a manifesto

Daniele Aliffi
April 15, 2021
Feste Archimedee
April 15, 2021
© Ph. Antonio Gerbino

Giuseppe Voza. A manifesto for the protection of cultural landscapes

My various encounters with Giuseppe Voza played quite a crucial part in the idea of creating SiracusaCulture. Living in Siracusa, or visiting the city and its province, being spellbound by its cultural landscape, wouldn’t have been the same if he as a thirty-something archeologist, hadn’t left Paestum to come to work in Sicily, and if he hadn’t settled at Siracusa, the city where he now enjoys honorary citizenship and is Superintendent Emeritus of Cultural Heritage. Before him and together with him, other great archeologists lived and worked in these lands, but history put him there at a time when the urban pressure was constantly building and the unthinking industrialisation of the area threatened to scar this unique heritage irreversibly. We can see the signs of his grander actions in the Greek theatre, the Villa del Tellaro and Pantalica, but have you ever wondered why there are archaeological areas that seem less important, yet preserved and protected, behind the Sanctuary next to roads full of parked cars and blocks of flats? These are signs of Giuseppe Voza’s pressing desire to protect the ancient urban landscape “insofar it was possible, insofar as it could be preserved and insofar as it could be, above all, passed down”. Have you ever wondered why Piazza Duomo at Siracusa is one of the most beautiful in the world? It’s because Siracusa had Giuseppe Voza as Superintendent, someone who to defend the principles of research and conservation, was prepared to challenge the Bishop on the Feast-day of Saint Lucy!
The following is an extract from an unpublished interview with Giuseppe Voza which can be read almost as his manifesto of values, values which we share wholeheartedly.
Sergio Grasso, aprile 2021

"… With the vast scale of the project which involved all the Greek cities of the eastern coast of Sicily where it was possible to understand the organisation of ancient cities in their various phases from the archaic period to the Hellenistic age, naturally the responsibilities for their conservation multiplied one-hundredfold. If we wanted to apply the Constitution which at Article 9 makes a clear reference to the protection of the landscape and the protection of the historic and artistic heritage, if we wanted to apply the law of 1939 that gives clear indications about the kinds of protection that can be exercised, i.e. to the strictly archaeological but also to the surrounding areas, it became vital to attempt a titanic operation of conservation and protective restrictions which became necessary after the success of the research into the urban plans carried out in the Greek colonies I cited before."
"First Bernabò Brea, then Paola Pelagatti and for about 40 years, I myself were able to impose a series of protective restrictions to protect what had been revealed, from Naxos to Lentini, Megara Hyblaea to Siracusa, to promote more research and to protect that ancient urban landscape, and the discoveries that had been uncovered. During that period, I was able to list and place compulsory purchase orders on about 2 million square metres around the Walls of Dionysius to protect them not against future attacks but against the continuous urban pressure that pushed against them, and above all to block the process of industrialisation to the north which had come too close for comfort. If I hadn’t been able to do that, the petrochemical plants would have been built right up to the Walls, touching those extraordinary archaeological structures.
Luckily we succeeded in our aims and were able to recall the eternal value of the words of Tomasi di Lampedusa, who in the 1950s, before the industrial aggression took off, as he saw the landscapes and watched the imposition of the first factories said, “but how has Sicily turned its back in these places on the vocation of these areas which used to be where herds would graze in the sun?”. These lovely words come from someone who didn’t know Megara Hyblaea, who hadn’t seen the excavations at Thapsos, or seen the multiplying of the archaeological treasures, yet he wrote about this area, from where you can see how high and powerful the gigantic Etna rises and where the waters of the sea are the colour of peacocks. This was the environmental treasure which we consciously decided we could do without."
© Regione Siciliana PH. Giuseppe Mineo
"We tried to limit the damage, but it’s clear that Megara Hyblaea is in the pincer-grasp of the industries even though the surrounding land hasn’t been affected by modern residential building and so it’s been possible to do unlimited archaeological research to uncover the city. And Thapsos has been brutalised by a factory that produced not the perfumes of the land rather bromide extracted from the sea while dealing a deadly blow to the surrounding landscape. So yes, we were able to save places but it was painful. This sort of defense in a strictly urban setting, at the centre of Siracusa between the small harbour and the Greek theatre was even more difficult, obviously because every day we had to deal with people who didn’t want the protective restrictions, people who wanted to build and interpret the possibilities of living in this city in an unregulated way, and it was a difficult path lined with many worries but faced with the urgent, ever-present desire to defend the landscape insofar as was possible, preserve as much as possible and pass down as much as possible. We tried to present this experience and the results in the Paolo Orsi Museum, to show how the territory was transformed. We hope that those who listen, above all the young people, will learn from our story."
Ottobre 2017

Honorary Superintendent of Cultural Heritage of Siracusa. Torri del Vento Edizioni has recently published the festschrift "Siracusa, la Sicilia, l’Europa. Scritti in onore di Giuseppe Voza".
Foto satellitare di Thapsos
© PH Marcello Bianca, Priolo, Zona industriale notturna