The Italian Almanac

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Keats grave

Italian News - February 28

Italian luxury jewelry firm Bulgari is to help save the crumbling gravestones of Rome's Protestant cemetery, the burial place of English poets John Keats and Percy Shelley. The five-acre graveyard, a haven of green in busy central Rome, has been listed as one of the most endangered sites on Earth by the World Monuments Fund.

According to administrators, the lush vegetation has grown out of control in some parts and general maintenance has been inadequate for decades. There are only two full-time gardeners and much work falls to volunteers. A plan to stop the deterioration was recently drawn up with the help of conservationists, fundraisers and horticulturalists. Now the Bulgari family, some of whose members are buried at the site, has promised a 20,000-euro donation to pay for a new watering system for the plants and flowers.

The cemetery, which has about 2,500 graves, receives no funding from the Italian State and relies on donations. Another source of income is the steady flow of tourists - some 10,000 a year - who visit the graveyard. Since a cash crisis at the cemetery became known last year, several donors have come forward. Among them are the Embassies in Rome of Canada, Germany, the Netherlands and Norway.

The cemetery has been in use, in the Testaccio district, since at least 1738. Until the 19th century, the papal rulers of Rome ordered that non-Catholics who died in the city had to be buried at night, by torchlight, a long way from Catholic burial grounds.