The twenty Italian Regions – all endowed with legislative powers and ad hoc administrative structures in the cultural sector (regional departments for culture / “assessorati regionali alla cultura”, in some cases associated with other domains like education and tourism) – are split into two groups (see chapter 1.2.1, chart 3):
- five autonomous regions, created in the post-war period and endowed with more extended competencies in the cultural field. It is important to note that, out of these five autonomous regions, according to their statutory laws, three – Valle d’Aosta, Sicily, and Trentino Alto Adige – also exercise, through their decentralised Soprintendenze, exclusive and direct legislative and administrative responsibility for their own heritage assets, including the previous “national”, now “regional”, museums and sites (the devolution of functions by the state took place in the late 1970s). Therefore, in these three regions there are no state Regional Directions for Cultural Goods and Landscape;
- fifteen ordinary regions, established in 1972, whose cultural competencies were initially limited by the Constitution (Article 117) to the supervision and financial support of local museums and libraries. The subsequent devolution of responsibilities for “cultural promotion of local interest” (Law 616, 1977), although falling short to meet their demand for more cultural decentralisation, came as a partial acknowledgement of their active commitment in the field, the formula being vague enough to eventually allow the Regions to legislate on a fairly wide range of cultural disciplines. According to the subsequent so-called “Devolution Laws” adopted in the late 1990s, and to Constitutional Law 3/2001, ordinary regions have now “concurrent legislative powers” with the state as far as managing and enhancing the heritage and cultural activities are concerned.
Unfortunately, for the time being, Istat is not able to collect comprehensive data on their cultural expenditure, as regional budgets are only now being standardised. In 2000 – the last year for which an ad hoc survey on the actual regional expenditure for culture based on their final accounts was carried out (see Rapporto sull’Economia della Cultura in Italia 1990-2000) – such expenditure amounted to 780 million EUR, about half way between the expenditure of the provinces and the municipalities (see further). It should also be noted that the biggest share of such expenditure (57%) was made available by the five autonomous regions.
Official representation of regional interests – in cultural, as in any other matter – is entrusted to the State-Regions Conference.Within this framework, the heads of the regional departments for culture regularly meet to discuss issues of common interest in the framework of two special coordination committees, the Interregional committee for cultural goods and the Interregional committee for the performing arts,also acting as lobbying organisations, pursuing institutional reforms towards a full implementation of a more federal governance structure in the cultural field.
The 107 Italian Provinces have always been the level of government least involved in cultural policy: their total expenditure for culture in 2013 of 131 million EUR, mainly allocated to archives and libraries, nearly halved since the 2008 financial crisis, and was fifteen times less than the amount of municipal expenditure in the same year (see further).
The only exception to the rule are the two rich Autonomous Provinces of Trento and Bolzano, which Regione Trentino-Alto Adige (see chart 3) has entrusted with its own cultural competencies devolved by the state (including direct responsibility for heritage), as well as with the connected very substantial financial resources, which are therefore taken into account under the regional expenditure for culture.
As far as the ordinary provinces are concerned, it should be mentioned that according to Law 1429B amending our Constitution – adopted by both parliaments, and awaiting submission to referendum in autumn 2016 – the provinces should be abolished. Their functions may be reallocated to the other three levels of government, in line with the so called “spending review”, aimed at the downgrading of our public expenditure to reduce Italy’s huge deficit.
What will happen with the provincial culture related functions – mainly concerning archives and libraries as well as their role of intermediating bodies between the regions and the municipalities for the allocation of funds to cultural activities – has not yet been finally established.