Italy: Fire Destroys Interactive Museum ‘Città della Scienza’ in Naples

[All links point to resources in Italian, unless otherwise noted]

On the evening of 4 March 2013 a large fire destroyed the “Città della Scienza” [en], a pioneering science museum in Bagnoli, Naples.

The  public centre was built between 1989 and 1992 in the former industrial area of Bagnoli, in the ex-headquarters of ILVA-Italsider, closed down due to the crisis in the steelworks sector and the pollution it was creating. This state-of-the-art centre was based on the Cité des sciences et de l'industrie [en] in Paris, a project by Vittorio Silvestrini, president of the IDIS-Città della Scienza Foundation. In the last 10 years the structure had approximately 350 thousand visitors per year. Its attractions included an interactive museum, a planetarium, a conference space, a training centre and an art exhibition area.

The shocking news particularly surprised the locals who immediately started discussing it various social networks (in particular Twitter). Some of them did not hide the fact that they believed it to be an act of arson by the Camorra [en]:

@sechi1964: sono stato a Cittá della Scienza pochi mesi fa. Un luogo che, da solo, sapeva rappresentare il riscatto di Napoli. Quel rogo brucia tutti noi.

@sechi1964: I visited the Città della Scienza just a few months ago. It was a place that, on its own, was able to represent Naples’ redemption. That fire burns us all.

@itsmeperp: La camorra brucia la città della scienza e poi aspetta il fiume di soldi della ricostruzione. E noi.. paghiamo.

@itsmeperp:The Camorra burns the Città della Scienza and then waits on the floods of money for the reconstruction. And we…pay.

@MiguelCavalle: Brucia la Città della Scienza a #Napoli e la #RegioneCampania corre a ricostruire… E perché non arrivare ai problemi prima che brucino…?

@MiguelCavalle: The Città della Scienza in #Naples is burning and the #CampaniaRegion rushes to rebuild… Why not solve problems before they burn…?

Marcello Signore writes on his blog:

Da ragazzino andavo sempre alla “Città della Scienza”: ci ho visto i dinosauri, le mostre interattive, ci ho ascoltato conferenze. Ci ho ricevuto anche un premio, il mio primo premio, il “premio poesia”, non lo dimenticherò mai. la “Città della Scienza” era a 500 metri da casa mia, ma a me sembrava un posto molto più lontano. Rappresentava il cambiamento, il miglioramento, l'evoluzione.

When I was a child we used to go to the “Città della Scienza”: I saw dinosaurs, interactive displays, listened to conferences. I even won a prize, my first prize, the “poetry prize”. I’ll never forget it. The “Città della Scienza” was 500 metres from my house, but it seemed much further to me. It represented change, improvement, evolution.

On Naples’ newspaper website,, many locals reflect on the event:

Natalia 13ful: siete il cancro della nostra terra. solo a pensare alle 170 persone rimaste disoccupate, e alle loro famiglie, per i vostri sporchi interessi.

Natalia 13ful: You are the cancer of our land. Just think of the 170 people that have been left without jobs, and their families, for your dishonest profits.

Pietro Treccagnoli: Si capiranno, forse, le origini e gli obiettivi del dolo. Ma qualcosa resterà sempre inspiegabile, soprattutto ai napoletani: come si può vivere in una città dove la scienza non produce coscienza.

Pietro Treccagnoli: We might understand, perhaps, the origins and the reasons for the arson. But something will always remain unexplainable, especially for the Neapolitans: how can we live in a city where science doesn’t produce conscience.

Francesco Grillo: Purtroppo dall'incendio viene fuori il messaggio che Napoli non si può ancora consentire il lusso di essere normale: dovranno essere spesi tanti soldi – tre miliardi di euro circa – in ricerca nei prossimi sette anni a Napoli per volontà della Commissione Europea: ma con il disastro di ieri sera si assottigliano le speranze di prendere anche quest'ultimo treno.

Francesco Grillo: Unfortunately out of the ashes comes the message that Naples cannot yet allow itself the luxury of being normal: lots of money will need to be spent – about three billion euros – on research in the next seven years in Naples with the European Commission’s support: but after yesterday’s disaster there is little hope even of getting this last train.

The well-known writer Roberto Saviano [en], author of the book on which the film Gomorra [en] was based, comments:

@robertosaviano: Dolo o incidente? Da sempre i clan vorrebbero edificare a Bagnoli: le fiamme a Città della scienza sono il fallimento di una Napoli diversa.

@robertosaviano: Arson or accident? The mafia clans have always wanted to build in Bagnoli: the flames at the Città della Scienza are the failure of a different Naples.

The Fiasco Job Blog reports:

Napoli oggi è di cenere – ha scritto Roberto Saviano – 160 dipendenti non sanno più’ nemmeno se e quando ricominceranno a lavorare…uno scheletro sul mare. Completamente distrutto lo science center, il planetario, sei capannoni per dodicimila metri quadri e danni per oltre venti milioni di euro. Resta il teatro, da lì bisognerà ripartire.

Today Naples is in ashes – wrote Roberto Saviano – 160 workers do not know if or when thy can return to their jobs… a skeleton by the sea. The science centre, the planetarium and six warehouses of twelve thousand square metres have been completely destroyed and the damages are for over twenty thousand euros. All that remains is the theatre, from there the reconstruction must begin.

veduta aerea della Città della Scienza dopo l'incendio

Città della Scienza, aerial view after the fire. Photo taken by

The flames were brought under control after 13 hours and investigations suggest that the arsonists were experts, setting alight the building just after closing time so as to not have any witnesses. It is suspected that the fire had 12 different points of origin which suggests that the people responsible wanted to destroy the entire structure — as confirmed by the initial investigation. One day perhaps the courts and the investigations will reveal the true causes (political, economic or the Camorra) of this destruction.

As far as reconstruction is concerned, the Minister for Territorial Cohesion, Fabrizio Barca, quickly announced that 5 million euros had already been made available and that the total would reach 20 million including funds for the redevelopment of industrial areas. Another ambitious promise was made by Franceso Profumo, Minister for Education, Universities and Reseach: the Città della Scienza would be rebuilt in about 18 months. An important clarification was made by the Governor of the Campania region, Stefano Caldoro, confirming the construction site: “No one wants to move the science centre away from Bagnoli to another part of the city. I can assure you of this”.

In the meantime local authorities and well-known faces alongside simple citizens have started various initiatives to contribute to the reconstruction. On Facebook, the Ricostruiamo Città della Scienza group has been created, while the first (crowdfunding) fundraising campaign on the DeRev website has already raised more than 51,000 euros on March 12. The MADRE (Donna Regina Modern Art Museum) in Naples has announced that it wants to donate 10% of next months intake to the cause. Carlo Rubbia [en], winner of a Nobel prize for physics, suggests creating an ad hoc committee for the reconstruction.

International media have also covered somewhat the event — such as the French website CetteSemaine [fr]:

“Un des cent pôles d’excellence italiens”, “un des meilleurs incubateurs de nouvelles entreprises”, ex-”meilleur musée des sciences en Europe”, à la fois “centre de congrès, centre de formation et pépinière d’entreprises”, etc. voilà ce qu’était la Cité des Sciences de Naples. En respirant un peu plus la cendre, la suie et la lance à incendie, elle pue désormais un peu moins l’ode à la recherche technologique qui sème partout la mort…

“One of the hundred poles of excellence in Italy”, “one of the best incubators for new businesses”, the ex-“best science museum in Europe”, “a conference centre, training centre and an entrepreneurial hothouse” all at the same time”, etc. This is what the Città della Scienza was. Now there is only ash, soot and fire hoses. It now smells a little less of eau de technological research, spreading death everywhere…

While the English website Ecsite, the European Network of Science Centres and Museums, offers details about the donation drive:

Yesterday evening a large fire has totally destroyed our Science Centre in Naples. Our dreams, 20 years of work, everything we put in this project caught fire in few hours during the night. We need the support of everybody, wherever you are, to believe in a new start.” Any contribution to the reconstruction of Città della Scienza can be done through the Bank Account: IBAN IT41X0101003497100000003256 BIC IBSPTINA. Ecsite, the European network of science centres and museums, extends a resolve to support Città della Scienza in this difficult time. The centre is a founding member of Ecsite and has been an active and instrumental member in the organization, hosting an Ecsite Conference and taking its Presidency from 2007 to 2009.

Finally, local students have made their voices heard through various public demonstrations, including a protest march downtown Naples on 8 March. This was followed by another protest the next day and a well-attended flashmob, held on the morning of 10 March in front of the fire site — at which the following photo was taken:

Città della Sceinza, napoli, foto di Ornella Sarrocco--

Città della Scienza, Naples, 10/03/2013. Photo by Ornella Sarrocco, from Facebook.


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