Heritage has always been at the core of Italy’s cultural policy. The Italian state, through the Ministry for Heritage, Cultural Activities and Tourism / MIBACT, is not only responsible for the strategic task involved in the protection of the country’s extremely rich and multi-layered heritage, but has direct responsibility for the management of a huge number of national heritage institutions, including 431 state museums and archaeological sites, 46 libraries and 100 archives (MiBACT, Minicifre della Cultura 2014).
Detailed legislative and regulatory measures for the protection and valorisation both of cultural heritage – from museums, monuments, archaeological sites and historical cities to the intangible and the digital heritage – and of the Italian landscape, have been rationalised and established by the Heritage and Landscape Codex (see chapter 4.2.2).
As for the key issues dealing with heritage currently being debated – linked to the present, quite dramatic shortfall in funds – some of them have been addressed by Law 122/2013 Valore Cultura, establishing, by art.3, the reallocation to MIBACT of earned income from tickets, bookshops, etc. (currently going to the Treasury), as well as increased financial resources for some museums and sites (including the “Uffizi” in Florence) and special allocations for the launch of the special project “500 youngsters for culture”: an extraordinary programme aimed at developing the cataloguing and digitalisation of cultural heritage in the southern regions, by training and employing 500 young people under 35 for the year 2014 (art. 2).
The main focus of Law 122, though, has been the “Great Pompeii Project” (art.1). Following the worldwide concern caused by the repeated collapses of Pompeii’s walls and artefacts, since 2011 urgent action had been envisaged through a special Great Plan for Pompeii, jointly drafted by our Ministry of Heritage and the European Commission, allocating 105 million EUR (of which 42 million from the European Regional Development Fund, and 63 million from the Italian state). The plan was aimed at the rehabilitation and restoration of the whole archaeological area, as well as at the development of tourism, both national and international, by promoting its attractiveness. Unfortunately, due to bureaucratic delays (see chapter 1.2.6), works were still lagging behind, and new collapses were continually taking place. In order to tackle such threats, according to Law 122/2013 a General Project Manager has been appointed. Assisted by an ad hoc technical and administrative staff of 25, he collaborates closely with the archaeological manager, Pompeii’s Soprintendente, in effectively running the restoration works as well as in enhancing the site for public enjoyment. With this aim in mind, a “strategic plan” for the running of the UNESCO site Archaeological areas of Pompeii, Ercolano and Torre Annunziata has been drafted, and is presently being enacted. Further measures for introducing more transparency and effectiveness in the operation of the project have been introduced by Law 106/2014. Consequently, restoration plans have been speeded up, and many monuments – including several previously inaccessible Roman dwellings decorated with beautiful frescoes – have been recently reopened to visitors.
Attention should also be drawn to the fact that one of the worst side consequences for MiBACT of the economic and financial crisis has been the protracted block in the ministry’s personnel turnover, which brought about a reduction in its staff from 25 000 employed in 2005 to little more than 18 000 in 2015, mainly affecting the more technically skilled in heritage matters. This extremely serious problem has been recently partially addressed by the Financial stability law for 2016, allowing MiBACT, at last, to recruit during 2016 500 skilled experts in heritage safeguarding and valorisation (archaeologists, art historians, archivists, librarians…but also experts in communication matters…), thus exceptionally bypassing the very strict rules still regulating the recruitment of ministerial staff in our country..
As far as “fostering public-private partnership” is concerned – an aim strongly pursued by all the most recent Ministries of Heritage – the pace of reform in our country is gradual and still underway.
Law 4,adopted in 1993 by Minister Ronchey, opened the doors of national museums to private agents willing to take over the management of the so-called “auxiliary services” (bookshops and museum shops, cafeterias, merchandising, etc.). Subsequent financial laws have broadened the scope of private intervention, extending it to core museum activities such as education and exhibitions. Leg. Decree 368/98 enabled the Ministry for Heritage to temporarily hand over the management of certain museums and other heritage institutions to ad hoc private foundations. Another more indulgent measure (Budget Law 2002) would simply allow the Ministry to privatisepublic services aimedat increasing access tocultural heritage. All these measures have been substantially endorsed, and subsequently further modified – by calling for more stringent requirements – under the new Heritage and Landscape Codex (see chapter 4.2.2).
For the time being, though, experiments with the public-private partnership have been carried out so far more frequently either at the local level (Rome, Venice..), or in the framework of state-local cooperation. The latter was the case of the Egyptian Museum of Turin (see chapter 1.3.1), the first national museum to be transformed, in 2004, into a public / private foundation, with the participation of MiBACT and the local public authorities, along with the local banking foundations. In 2010, MAXXI – the new state museum for contemporary arts – received foundation status as well: which recently (2015) enabled it to open up to ENEL as a significant private partner (see chapter 7.2.1).
The fostering of public-private partnerships, by singling out new forms of involvement of the private sector in the valorisation and operation of cultural sites is actually among the priorities pursued by Minister Franceschini. The issue of encouraging donations, both by private individuals and corporations, has been addressed – as well – by Law 106/2014 Art bonus, by experimentally raising (for 2015 and 2016) from 19% to 65% the amount of tax relief available for donations to public cultural institutions, ranging from museums and heritage sites to libraries, archives and theatres (see also chapter 4.1.4). Also, thanks to its successful implementation during 2015 – when 65 million EUR was provided by 2000 donors – this “bonus” measure has been confirmed and made permanent by the Stability Law for 2016.
Italy’s action in the heritage field is presently more and more focused on its modernisation through the adoption of new technologies for the conservation and promotion of its historical and artistic assets. Thus acting on satellite archaeological prospects, digital cataloguing systems, information services for visitors, digital accessibility (also in agreement with Google), etc. – often in partnership with other countries in the framework of EU projects (see also chapter 1.4.2 and chapter 2.4) has become a priority.
Alongside “virtual” access, wider issues of cultural attendance and participation have also been addressed by MiBACT (see chapter 1.1 and chapter 6.1). While Art. 6 of the Heritage and Landscape Codex generally defines the key goals of “valorisation” as “promoting the knowledge of cultural heritage and guaranteeing the best possible conditions for its public utilisation and enjoyment, including on the part of people with disabilities”, the challenge remains how to nurture a deeper heritage awareness through programmes and activities aiming not only to increase attendance figures, but also (and most significantly) to initiate a new, closer relationship with diverse audiences, by listening and giving voice to the needs and expectations of individuals and communities. In order to respond to this challenge, a preliminary survey of existing data and information was carried out (see, inter alias, Fondazione Fitzcarraldo 2011 and Parca 2012) to identify key weaknesses and develop a set of strategies and guidelines to redress them. Strategies resulting from these studies are aimed at improving the accessibility, comfort, and cultural supply in heritage institutions through better orientation and information systems (from panels and captions to audio-guides) and through ad hoc services for special audiences; at promoting heritage through communication campaigns and heritage education programmes. Guidelines for accessible communication and information systems for museums and heritage sites have also been recently developed and tested (see chapter 6.1).
Needless to say that promoting valorisation, along with the needed, related communication, of the exceptionally relevant heritage asset in Italy – also as a means of fostering economic and social development and of overcoming the present financial downturn – is also at the core of the present government action’s in the cultural field.
For more information, see
European Heritage Network: Country profile Italy