In the Italian Constitution, the main legislative reference in cultural matters is represented by article 9, according to which “the Republic promotes the development of culture (…), protects the landscape and the historic and artistic heritage of the Nation”, respecting the freedom of art, research and teaching enshrined in the following art. 33 (“art and science are free and their teaching is free”), which in turn strengthens the freedom of expression guaranteed by art. 21 (“everyone is free to freely express their thoughts through words, writing and any other means”). Of great importance is the complex nature of cultural heritage, which, given the constitutional mention of “landscape”, is not made up only of goods from the past, nor only of tangible ones, and not only of those that are publicly owned.
Art. 117, second paragraph, lett. s) of the Constitution includes among the matters reserved to the exclusive legislation of the State the protection (tutela) of cultural heritage, while paragraph 3 includes, among the matters of concurrent legislation between the State and the Regions, those relating to the valorization (valorizzazione) of cultural (and environmental) heritage and the promotion and organization of cultural activities, leaving any other aspect to the regional legislation (paragraph 4).
Particularly relevant is also the constitutional “principle of subsidiarity”, on the basis of which private individuals can participate in activities of general interest, especially if they are owners of cultural assets. Moreover, the theoretical hypothesis of a specific “right to culture” is being strengthened; this right, which can be deduced from the combined provisions of Articles 9 4 and 33 of the Constitution, claims to have free access to the cultural offer. It therefore requires public duties and obligations in relation to the “cultural education of the associates to which every value capable of soliciting and enriching their sensitivity as persons contributes to, as well as the improvement of their personality and their spiritual, as well as material, progress” (Constitutional Court, Decision no. 118/1990). This hypothesis has recently been reinforced by the adoption of decree-law n. 146/2015 (converted by law no. 182/2015), which included the opening of museums, and publicly owned places and institutes of culture in the list of public services to be considered essential.
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