THE ancient site's future is endangered by high costs and some very bad visitor behavior.

It's easy to imagine lounging in the garden st the sprawling villa of Julia Felix, a savvy Roman businesswoman who lived in the ancient Roman city of Pompeii in the first century A.D.

There would have been wine, fresh figs, apricots and walnuts. The warm sea breeze would have blended the dry scent of cypress and bay leaves with the stench rubbish and excrement from the street. and the gurgle of water in the baths would have been occasionally drowned out by the cries from the crowd in the 20,000-seat amphitheater nearby.

On a recent weekday morning, a slow moving lines of tourists snaked through the elegant estate, admiring what's left of elaborate frescoes, deep-set dining room and marble pillars.

Nearly 2,000 years have passed since Pompeii and its surroundings were buried under ash and rock after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79.

But this estate which, which recently reopened after extensive restoration, appears much as it would have looked when Julia Felix still welcomed her paying guests.

The renewed Felix estate is just one outcome of a multiyear project that was meant to save Pompeii from a crisis caused by decades of underfunding and mismanagement.

The Great Pompeii Project, scheduled to wrap up now, has secured many of the site's threatened buildings, led to important discoveries and significantly improved the experience for tourists.

But challenges persist. The Archaeological Park of Pompeii - as distinct from the adjacent modern Italian city of Pompeii - is set to receive a record breaking number of visitors this year, guards are in short supply and everyday maintenance of the  163 acre archaeological site remains staggeringly expensive.

Some observers worry that Pompeii could slide back into disrepair.

It's a state that the ancient city knows all too well. Since concerted excavations began in the middle of 18th century, Pompeii's rich homes, tombs and public buildings have been plundered by looters. exploited by public excavators, and [in some early cases] ''restored so aggressively as to spoil the original treasures.

Allied bombing in 1943 struck the on-site museum and severely damaged various houses. After World War II, the Italian government began widespread excavations to create jobs for the unemployed. A severe earthquake in 1980 further weakened the ancient city's structures. Funding for preservation was often in short supply.

In 2008, the Italian government declared a year long state of emergency for Pompeii. A special commissioner was appointed to oversee improvements, but he was later accused of corruption, overspending and even damaging parts of the site.

In November 2010, the Schola Armaturarum, or House of Gladiators, partly collapsed after heavy rains, triggering negative headlines. UNESCO, which had added the ancient city to its list of World Heritage sites in 1997, sent a team to assess the situation. The resulting report warned that a  ''considerable number'' of other buildings were also at risk.

The negative attention finally triggered an influx of financing. in March 2012, the European Commission approved funding, with the goal of securing the ancient city as an enduring attraction in the region.

When combined with money from the Italian government, the funds came to 105 million euros [about $116 million]. The next month, ''The Great Pompeii Project'' began.

But for now, the the tourist experience will be critical for Pompeii's future., as much as excavations have been the defining feature of site's recent past.

The goal must be to strike a balance between tourism and preservation., said Mary beard, a professor  of classics at Cambridge University and the author of an award winning book on Pompeii.

''At one extreme, we have the nightmare scenario of the site being wrapped in cotton wool and accessible only to the privileged,'' Professor Beard wrote in an email.

''At the other we have the nightmare scenario of the site being flooded with visitors, clambering over the walls and ripping bits of mosaic from the floor. Our job is to find the right point in between,''

The World Students Society thanks author Paige Mcclanahan.


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