The Italian government has been forced to declare a state of emergency at the archeological site of Pompeii because of its severe state of disrepair.
"To call the situation intolerable doesn't go far enough," said Culture Minister Sandro Bondi on Friday. She took office in Silvio Berlusconi's new conservative government in May.
Bondi issued a cabinet statement saying the government would appoint a special commissioner for Pompeii, a Roman city buried by an eruption of the Vesuvius volcano in 79 A.D. and now a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Archaeologists and art historians have been decrying the decay at Pompeii for many years. Its upkeep has been strangled by a lack of funds, litter, looting, mismanagement as well as illegal tour guides and stray dogs.
Critics say there should be more guards and more drains at the site.
The state of emergency would last for a year and allows for extra funds and special measures to be taken to protect the site.
"Every year at least 150 square metres of fresco and plaster work are lost for lack of maintenance," said Antonio Irlando, a regional councillor responsible for artistic heritage.
Pompeii is one of Italy's most-visited tourist sites, hosting some 2.5 million visitors a year.
Two-thirds of the 66-hectare town, which was home to about 13,000 people in the Roman era, have been uncovered since excavations began 260 years ago. The remaining third is still buried.
Adding to the decay is the trash crisis in the nearby city of Naples. The ancient site is now being used as a garbage dump and is littered with tires, old fridges and mattresses.