Pompeii now open for business to bidders

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When a state of emergency was declared this summer at the ancient grounds of Pompeii, the move by Italy's government touched off an eruption of media accounts about how the ruins near Mt. Vesuvius were, well, in ruins.

Now authorities responsible for a yearlong evaluation no longer want the lost city of Pompeii to be viewed as being in dire need of repair. Rather, the top administrator in this emergency year said the expansive trove of mosaics and villas is in search of a marketing makeover and moneymakers.

Pompeii, one of Italy's most visited tourist sites, is now open for business to bidders eager for lucrative contracts inside the ruins. Tourism is in a state of emergency more than the ruins themselves, said Renato Profili, the special administrator on the job since July.

The opening of Pompeii to private ventures comes as the government of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, pinched for cash, has slashed state funds for arts and archeological sites. Archeology restoration funds for Pompeii suffered a deep cut, reduced from $75 million last fiscal year to $15 million this fiscal year, the top archeologist there said.

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