Torre del Greco calls upon Unesco

Published in Focus
29 December 2016

Interview with Thomas Mazza, promoter of the candidacy of Torre del Greco coral art as a Unesco World Heritage

Last November the proposal for Torre del Greco coral and cameo crafting to join the UNESCO list of intangible heritage was presented. Already accepted by the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and the Italian UNESCO Commission, the proposal will be evaluated by UNESCO Paris, which is responsible for final approval. Tommaso Mazza, head of the Organizing Committee and president of Assocoral, tells us about it.

How did the idea of proposing the nomination to UNESCO arise?

It came from the need to enhance the manufacturing of coral and cameo especially to the eyes of the authorities. The city of Torre del Greco is a known leader in this industry, but not yet officially recognized. We need greater visibility and the road towards nomination seemed viable, although not at all simple: it is a long and complicated path, but in the meantime we will be able to encourage people talk about us more.

What are the numbers of the coral sector?

300 active companies and 5000 employees including the armature. The turnover is remarkable: from 4 million to 500 million euro. Despite these numbers, no one has ever worked hard enough so that the industry would be given the right importance. Everyone tells us we are good but, in the end, nothing concrete ever comes about. Yet, despite the crisis, the niche area we work in has made it, even in the midst of many difficulties.

What would be the fallout of Torre del Greco if the proposal were to be accepted?

I wish to emphasize that this is first and foremost a cultural and not a commercial operation. Our interest is to foster protection, preservation and enhancement of a historic and cultural heritage. If the proposal is accepted, Torre del Greco will be known internationally as a town where there is a cultural heritage recognized as belonging to humanity, it would have a high profile, there would be a relapse of major tourist hotels, restaurants and museums. And the field of coral and cameos itself could gain advantages from the recognition and be encouraged to pursue a more serious penetration into international markets.

What is the perception of this important sector internationally?

Only insiders know how important the industry is, and not even all of them. For example, not everyone knows that Torre del Greco is the only place in the world where cameo is carved from shells and that any piece of shell, from the smallest to largest, is completely handmade. The wider public doesn’t know and, even among professionals, only senior professionals know. It is something that the whole world should instead become aware of.