Saturday, February 1, 2014

Stolen Treasures Return to Italy

Ever since  the 1770s when  William Hamilton   collected and exported  Greek vases  found  in the  excavations of  Pompeii ,  ancient artifacts  and tomb robbers  ( tombaroli ) have been part of  the Italian scene.
William Hamilton 

According to the Carabinieri,  the theft of Italy’s   art  and  archeological patrimony is  fourth on  the list of  crime in Italy, after arms, drugs and  financial crime.

 silver  helmet 

funerary urn  with myth of Enomao 

Apulian  red figure plate 

 Many of these  objects  have been looted  from tombs and  necropoli  in  Etruria, in central Italy or from the Puglia region.  
gilded copper, coral  encrusted  pyx
On show   until mid-March I Tesori : La Memoria Ritrovata at Palazzo Qurinale in Rome, an exhibit of  over  100  objects   found and returned to Italy by the Carabinieri. 

Among  the  precious objects  are  23 funerary urns stolen from  the Perugia area,  Greek vases, silver and coral  objects.

funerary urn 

Here are a  few books on the subject that I recommend for those wanting more background on the criminal looting of Italy's ancient treasures. 

The names recurring in all these books are those of dishonest  curators  at prestigious American museums, dodgy auction houses,   and intermediaries who smuggled looted treasures dug up by tombaroli. 

magnificent horses on an Apulian oinochoe   
Another  excellent exhibit  featuring   fine arts, antiquities  and treasures  is  now  on in Rome until February 16th:  The Treasure of San Gennaro at Palazzo Sciarra on Via del Corso in  Rome.  

Between  March 1 and  June 30, Trajan's Market (Mercati di Traiano) will play host to an exhibit on the excavations  of  Cencelle .

Cencelle near Tolfa

  Cencelle,  considered the  Pompeii of the  Middle Ages, is located  on the hills near Civitavecchia and Tolfa.   
I wrote about Cencelle as a perfect day trip for cruise passengers docking  in Civitavecchia    in   "Etruria, travel, history and itineraries in central Italy " 

photo by Agostino Cecchini 

Cencelle excavations 

Check  my website , (Google rated as  the top site for  buying antiques in Italy)  for more itineraries and information about antiques  in Italy.  
Please share with friends  using the Facebook and  Twitter  icons. Your questions and comments  are welcome.  


  1. We saw the Treasures of San Gennaro - jaw dropping!
    A gang of tombaroli figure in my novel soon to be finished.

  2. Thanks for comment, Judith, cant wait to see your new novel with tombaroli. Did you meet any while here in Etruria?