1. Cultural policy system
Last update: May, 2016
Italy is a comparatively young state, whose unification dates back only to 1860. The first laws pertaining to cultural matters were adopted by the Parliament in 1902 and 1909, focusing mainly on safeguarding the heritage. In fact, given the unparalleled wealth of the multi-layered Italian historic and artistic assets and the considerable burden of its maintenance on the public purse, heritage has always represented the prevailing domain of public policy in the cultural sector.
A noteworthy parenthesis to this longstanding trend was to be witnessed during the 1920s and 1930s under fascist rule, when Italy was one of the first countries to create a ministry specifically in charge of the cultural sector: the Ministry for Popular Culture, which actually soon became quite unpopular. Despite the negative implications of such a Ministry being created under a dictatorship – censorship, ideological propaganda, and the like – the farsightedness and the anticipatory view of the role of the state in the policies for culture of the fascist regime, as well as its understandingof the cultural institutional engineering, are by nowgenerally acknowledged. A large part of Italian cultural legislation – not only on the protection of the heritage and landscape (Laws 1089 and 1497 of 1939), but also in support of artists and artisticcreativity, such as the comprehensive Copyright Law, or the Law on"2% for the arts in public buildings" – date back to the late 1930s and early 1940s. The same is true for many of the surviving major cultural institutions, such as the Institute for Restoration (for movable andimmovable cultural goods), the national broadcasting company (EIAR, later RAI), Cinecittà and Istituto Luce (the state owned film companies).
As in Germany, our Ministry for Popular Culture was immediately abolished after the war: yet, whereas cultural competencies were devolved to the Lander in the former case, in Italy they were instead retained by the state and split among several ministries. Along with "protection of heritage and landscape", and "freedom of thought and of artistic expression", the "promotion of cultural development" was also far-sightedly mentioned among the key cultural goals by the Constitution of 1947 (Articles 9, 21 and 33, see chapter 4.1.1). However, only the first two goals were actively pursued from the outset, whereas the "promotion of cultural development" – at that time a quite anticipatory goal – remained for decades in the background. Support for contemporary creativity was no longer a priority, and access to the arts was still for the happy few. Participation in cultural life, however, gradually gathered momentum through the fast-developing cultural industries, through the high level of post-war film production and through the new mass medium: television.
A relevant turning point came in the 1970s, when significant institutional reforms took place. The first move came in 1972, when, according to the 1947 Constitution, the 15 ordinary regions were finally established. This was a start to the decentralisation process, when active cultural policies were undertaken by some of the regions (Lombardy, Toscana, Emilia Romagna…), aware of the potential of culture and the arts to asserting their own identities. The municipalities followed this example and around the mid-1970s regional and municipal ad hoc departments for culture were embedded in most local administrations, and the call for a broader participation in cultural life became a widely debated national issue. The demand for more cultural decentralisation, though, remained unfulfilled, by not enacting the reallocation of competencies on heritage and the performing arts among the state, the regions and local authorities in 1978, foreseen by Leg. Decree 616/1977.
Other relevant institutional changes emerged in the second half of the 1970s, when the long lasting rationalisation process of cultural responsibilities was finally started at the national level. In 1975, a separate Ministry for Heritage was created by regroupingresponsibilities for museums and monuments, libraries, cultural institutions from the Ministry of Education, for archives from the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and for book publishing from the Prime Minister's Office. The transfer of responsibilities for the performing arts to the new Ministry - albeit foreseen by Pres. Decree 805/1975 - turned out to be premature at the time, as the ghost of the Ministry for Popular Culture was evoked to question the idea of a comprehensive ministry for culture. The prominence of Italy's heritage as the cornerstone of national cultural policy was thus emphasised; "safeguarding" and "restoration" being the key functions absorbing most of the state's activities and financial resources allocated to the cultural field. Support for contemporary creativity and wider access continued to be a low priority for the new ministry: according to foreign cultural policy experts visiting the country in 1994, "the philosophy of the ministry…is historically based" and it "operates against the interests of a lively visual arts sector", whereas, on the other hand, "at the hint of any conflict between tutela (protection)and public access, the public were invariably the loser" (Council of Europe, 1995).
At the turn of the century, the new economic emphasis on the production of immaterial goods and services, and thus the central role acquired by cultural policies in the framework of development policies in Italy as in other industrialised countries, played a significant role in removing the last obstacles to a full rationalisation of the state cultural competencies. In 1998, the centre-left government extended the scope of the Ministry for Heritage to embrace responsibility for the performing arts and cinema, which had been previously entrusted to the Ministry of Tourism. Further responsibilities on copyright were added in 2000, when the Ministry for Heritage and Cultural Activities had finally achieved the full status of a ministry for culture comparable to the ones of most European countries. Only responsibilities for support and regulation of television, radio and the press, as well as arts education, remain out of its reach, unlike in other countries (France, the UK…). Finally, since 2013, mindful of the role in enhancing Italy's tourism attractiveness played by "cultural tourism", the Ministry for Culture was further empowered with responsibilities on tourism, thus being renamed the Ministry for the Heritage, Cultural Activities and Tourism (Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali/MIBACT).
The unsolved devolution problem, though, remained a source of conflict for quite a long time, leading to appeals to the Constitutional Court. If cultural cooperation between the state and the regions has finally gradually improved, what is still missing, and badly needed – for a more sound and rational governance of culture in our country - is the strengthening, at the national level, of the planning, co-ordination, evaluation and monitoring capabilities of the cultural field as a whole. A "different state" would be actually needed for a positive outcome of the decentralisation process (Cammelli, 2003) and to implement policies and actions specifically aimed at overcoming the deeply rooted geographical and social imbalances still affecting Italy's cultural life.
The gap in cultural supply and demand between the rich and developed northern and central regions and an underprivileged southern Italy is in fact a long lasting problem. Notwithstanding the significant thrust set in motion also by means of the European Structural Funds, according to most cultural indicators this gap is growing even wider. In the economically deprived "Mezzogiorno"– so rich in cultural heritage and artistic talent, but with a very high rate of youth unemployment and still partially in the control of criminal organisations (mafia, camorra and the like) – the role of culture and the arts as a means of fostering economic development and social cohesion is still widely undervalued.
It must be underlined, though, that our country's harmonious cultural development has been heavily hindered, since the years 2000s, by the dramatic financial downsizing of public expenditure for culture (chapter 7.1). Financial restrictions have caused a progressive downgrading of our artistic and historic assets (Pompeii's collapses are only the most well known case), as well as of our artistic creativity, our cultural institutions, our cultural industries, and, consequently, a downsizing of cultural employment. The great potential for strengthening competitiveness in a globalised world using our unique heritage and tradition in artistic talents has not yet been fully acknowledged by our ruling class.
In recent times, however, there have been positive signs of a growing awareness on the part of civil society as a whole: associations, non profit organisations, corporations. A relevant initiative of the latter has been the publication, in 2012, in Italy's main economic newspaper, Il Sole24ore (owned by the Confederation of Italian Industry), of an appeal for "a constituent assembly for culture" calling for "a Copernican revolution in the relationship between culture and development", and for an in-depth change in our governance of culture (see chapter 2.9). This has led to widely participated debates and articles on the issue. At the "General States for Culture" subsequently organised by the newspaper, the protracted delay of Italy's ruling class in the implementation of the cultural goals as defined by the Italian Constitution was unprecedentedly criticised at the highest level by the President of the Republic, Giorgio Napolitano, by denouncing the "outrageous under-evaluation of cultural issues and of the related public policies by government, both at the national and the local level" in Italy in the last decades. The President warned that heritage protection and cultural development should rank much higher in the scale of government priorities and in the allocation of public funds, in spite of the present financial constraints.
Positive signs of a new awareness of the potential role of culture in boosting Italy's civic, economic and social development have been shown recently by the two centre-left coalition governments subsequently formed after the 2013 political elections. New emphasis has been placed by the minister for Heritage, Cultural Activities and Tourism, Massimo Bray, not only on heritage protection, but also on "culture as a common good" and, for the first time, on the promotion of the "cultural rights" of all citizens, "including those with an immigrant background". On the other hand his successor since February 2014, Minister Dario Franceschini, was the first to give full emphasis to the potential role of his ministry as "the country's most relevant economic ministry", and to reverse the downward trend in state cultural expenditure.
Last but not least, the need to promote and safeguard – besides the basic social and civic rights - the cultural rights of all those living in Italy, including the now over 5 million immigrants who arrived and are still arriving in our country from the politically and socially troubled and less economically developed areas of the world, has started to be finally taken into account by the two ministers: some first steps in this direction have actually been recently accomplished (see chapter 2.6 and chapter 2.5.1). To guarantee equality of access to cultural participation and to cultural expression for all citizens should by now be considered an utmost priority for integration and social inclusion, calling for an urgent and well-focused effort by our national community as a whole.
More recently, the deaths due to terrorism in Paris and Brussels in 2015-2016 have actually boosted such awareness at the highest levels of our political class. The need to fight the existing pockets of deep segregation in our cities through fostering better access to education and culture has been repeatedly summoned both by the President of the Republic, Sergio Mattarella, and by the Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi. On 25 November 2015 the latter declared that "any additional Euro spent in security needs to be counterbalanced by an additional Euro spent in education and culture" As a first, quite symbolic, step he also announced that one billion EUR was to be allocated additionally for cyber security and police forces and one billion for the requalification and socialisation of run down urban suburbs and for boosting the cultural consumption of 18 year olds in the 2016 state provisional budget. This is a welcome advance of an imminent turnabout in the dramatic decline in public expenditure for culture (see figure 4, chapter 7.1.2) since the economic downturn... but still, a long way to go.
Main features of the current cultural policy model
The Italian cultural policy model may be considered from an economic and an administrative point of view.
The economic model isclosely connected to a mixed economy system, with the public sector historically being the primary funding source for heritage, museums, archives and libraries, and, to a certain extent, for the performing arts, whereas the cultural industries – with the exception of RAI, the state owned radio-television corporation – are mainly supported by the marketplace, although supplemented bypublic subsidies in case of poor market performance: which has been frequently the case, for cinema and the press (see chapter 4.2.6). In particular, state support for the press increased tremendously during the 1990s, to suffer a staggering reduction in more recent years. On the other hand, heavy constraints on the national budget induced public authorities of all levels of government to encourage a direct involvement both of the non-profit private sector and of the marketplace even in the fields of heritage and the performing arts.
As far as government action is concerned, the administrative model has traditionally beenone of direct intervention of public administration in the support of cultural activities, and, in many cases, in the management of cultural institutions (museums, sites, theatres, etc…), through national ministries or regional, provincial and municipal ad hoc departments("assessorati alla cultura"). At the national level, a few quasi-independent (arm's length) public bodies do exist – like the Venice Biennale (see chapter 1.3.1). On the other hand, the cases of "désétisation" have been very few so far, the most notable one dealing with the once national Museo Egizio in Turin, which – having been given "foundation" status – has been restructured and is now very brilliantly jointly managed by national, local and private partners.
A more autonomous status has been recently decided for twenty - soon to be thirty - state museums and sites, although still operated at state level (see chapter 1.2.2).
New models of public-private partnership, have been until now more boldly experimented by local authorities through the so called "gestioni autonome" (autonomous operated organisations): Musica per Roma – the foundation operating the three Rome Auditoriums by Renzo Piano – may be considered one of the most successful examples.
Cultural policy objectives
Within the broader framework of the cultural objectives pursued by the Italian Constitution – "heritage and landscape protection", "cultural development", "pluralism and freedom of expression" (see chapter 4.1.1) - the following more detailed objectives for government action are defined by Leg. Decree 368/1998, by which the new Ministry of Heritage and Cultural Activities was created:
- the protection and valorisation of cultural heritage;
- the promotion of reading and of books and libraries
- the promotion of urban and architectural quality;
- the promotion of cultural activities, with particular reference to the performing arts and cinema and the visual arts;
- the support of artistic research and innovation;
- higher training in all cultural disciplines; and
- the diffusion of Italian culture and art abroad.
Although there is no automatic correlation of these objectives with the cultural policy principles of the Council of Europe – promotion of identity and diversity, support to creativity – objective 1 appears to be strictly connected with identity issues, whereas objectives 3, 4 and 5 are mainly related to creativity issues. On the other hand, the other two more socially relevant cultural policy principles of the Council of Europe – i.e. diversity and participation in cultural life –have not been dealt with by Decree 368 among the Ministry's objectives.
As far as participation in the field of heritage is concerned, though, it should be noted that Article 6 of the subsequent, basic legislation rationalising heritage matters, the Heritage and Landscape Codex (delegated decree 42/2004: see chapter 4.2.2) clarifies that the "valorisation" of heritage should include both its "protection" and "the guarantee of the best possible conditions for its public utilisation and enjoyment". Actions aiming at fully enacting Article 6 have been carried out in the last years by the DG for the Valorisation of Cultural Heritage (see chapter 3.1).
On the other hand, the goal of promoting diversity in cultural life as a whole has not yet become a priority for our national cultural policy (see chapter 2.5.1). There is still a delay in pursuing strategies to overcome the country's enduring social and geographical cultural imbalances, as well as in acknowledging the potentially relevant role of culture in fostering social cohesion and mutual understanding in an increasingly multicultural society. It is no coincidence that, unlike in other countries (see in particular the UK), no administrative units within the ministry responsible for culture are entrusted with promoting culture as a means for social cohesion, cultural integration and more in general the cultural rights of the over five million foreign residents who have settled in Italy over the last decades. A new awareness of these problems, though, seems to be underway (see chapter 2.6).
Last update: May, 2016
Chart 1 provides a schematic overview of the organisational structure of cultural administration in Italy at the four levels of government (see chapter 1.2.2).
Chart 1: Institutional structure of cultural administration at the four levels of government
Chart 2 shows the new organisational structure of the Ministry for Heritage, Cultural Activities and Tourism provided for by Ministerial Decree, 29 August 2014.
Chart 2: Organisational structure of the Ministry of the Heritage, Cultural Activities and Tourism
Chart 3: Autonomous and ordinary regions in Italy; special responsibilities for heritage of the autonomous regions of Val d'Aosta, Trentino Alto Adige and Sicily
* Autonomous regions to which the state has devolved direct responsibility for heritage and landscape since the late 1970s. Region Trentino Alto Adige has in turn devolved responsibility for heritage and landscape to the provinces of Trento and Bolzano.
Although the other two autonomous regions of Sardinia and Friuli Venezia Giulia are also endowed with more extensive cultural responsibilities and resources, the state maintains direct responsibilities for the protection of their heritage.
All 20 regions have Regional Departments for Culture (see chapter 1.2.2).
Last update: May, 2016
In Italy, four levels of government – state, regions, provinces and municipalities – share responsibilities in the cultural field (see chapter 1.2.1). Although important changes in the governance structure of culture are under way, for the time being in the ordinary regions the most important administrative and legislative functions still lie with the state, which until recently has also been responsible for half, or more, of the total public expenditure for culture (see chapter 7.1.2).
- Administrative functions
At the national level, responsibilities for the cultural sector lie presently with 4 ministries (see Chart 1), and notably with:
The Ministry of the Heritage, Cultural Activities and Tourism
After a long-lasting separation of functions between cultural heritage and the performing arts (see chapter 1.1), at the end of the past century (1999) the Ministry (MiBAC, since 2013 MiBACT) has been entrusted with the full range of core cultural functions: heritage, museums, libraries and archives, visual arts, performing arts and cinema, cultural institutions, copyright, with the only exception being communications (radio television and the press). Tourism has been added to the Ministry's traditional functions in April 2013.
For the fifth time in fifteen years, the Ministry's organisational structure – which had already been substantially modified by the Decrees 233/2007 and 91/2009 –underwent extensive and significant changes once again by means of Decree 29 August 2014 n. 171. The aim of this reorganisation (http://www.beniculturali.it/mibac/export/MiBAC/sito-MiBAC/MenuPrincipale/Ministero/La-struttura-organizzativa/index.html) was synthesised as follows:
- the need to comply with the integration of culture and the newly transferred responsibilities on tourism;
- an effort towards simplification and better coordination between central and territorial functions;
- the need to boost the autonomy of state museums, so that they can modernise;
- the enhancement of the ministry's attention towards contemporary art and creativity; and
- overcoming the ministry's delay in innovation, research and educational policies.
At the central level, while the coordination of ministerial functions is still entrusted to a Secretary General, in 2014 the General Directions have been increased from eight to eleven, while abolishing the DG for Valorisation - to give way, once again, to the DG for Contemporary Art and Architecture (to which the regeneration of Urban Suburbs have been added) – whereas the DG for Museums has been separated from the DG for Fine Arts and Landscape (see chapter 4.2.2), the previous DG for Organisation and Budget has been split into two DGs, and, along with the DG for Tourism, aDG has been introduced: the DG for Education and Research. The other previous DGs – the DG for Antiquities, for Libraries and Archives, for Performing Arts, and for Cinema - have been maintained.
In exercising its functions, the Ministry is assisted by four central, widely representative advisory bodies: the High Council for Heritage and Landscape, the "Consulta" for the Performing Arts, the Permanent Committee for Copyright, and the newly added Permanent Committee for the Promotion of Tourism.
The DGs are technically supported by other central, high-level, relatively autonomous scientific bodies, among which are the Istituti centrali for Heritage protection and restoration, for Heritage cataloguing, for Books restoration and cataloguing, for Archives, for Demo-ethno-anthropological goods, for Graphic arts, for Audiovisual Goods,and the Opificio per le Pietre Dure (dealing with the restoration of inlaid semi-precious stones artefacts)….
Besides the existing, relatively autonomous bodies like the National Archives, two National Libraries and the Centre for Books and Reading, Decree 29 August 2014 has also provided for twenty other national heritage organisations of notable relevance, to be endowed with special autonomy, and whose directors are not appointed through the usual, internal selection, but rather through an external, international competition. Among these, besides 13 museums (Uffizi, Galleria Borghese, Brera, Venice Academy, etc.) also the two Soprintendenze for Antiquities of Rome/Coliseum and of Pompeii/Ercolanum and some heritage sites (the palaces of Caserta, Mantua, etc.) (http://www.beniculturali.it/mibac/export/MiBAC/sito-MiBAC/Contenuti/visualizza_asset.html_1656248911.html) have also been included.
At the peripheral level, MiBACT is split between administrative bodies – the Regional Secretariats – and techno-scientific territorial structures especially endowed with the mission of safeguarding heritage: the Soprintendenze, respectively related to the already mentioned DGs for Fine Arts and Landscape and for Antiquities. Furthermore, two other newly created decentralised bodies should also be mentioned: the Regional Museum Coordinators, whose main task will be the promotion of regional museum systems, also open to local and private museums, and the Regional Commissions for Heritage –composed of MIBACT's managers active in the region of reference. They should have the final say in all matters and decisions related to heritage and landscape safeguard and valorisation, planning restrictions, the granting of permits etc..., within the region itself (see also chapter 4.2.2).
Shortly after these far reaching changes in the ministry's organisational structure, though, further changes have been again introduced by Ministerial Decree 19 January 2016, whichmodified the present MiBACT's organigram once more (see Chart 2): in fact, the DG for Antiquities has been modified and melded with the DG for Fine Arts and Landscape, the related Sovrintendenze will be unified as well, and their number increased, while a new autonomous scientific institute has been created: the Institute for Antiquities. It should also be mentioned that the Decree has been heatedly opposed by well known archaeologists (Settis, La Regina, etc…) and even by former Minister for Heritage Paolucci, who deem it as excessively downgrading archaeological matters, whereas other famous archaeologists (Carandini, Manacorda…) welcome it as a step forward towards a more unified and contextual territorial vision of fine arts, architecture and archaeology.
Furthermore, according to the same Decree, special autonomy will be granted to an additional 10 museums and archaeological sites, most of which are located in the Rome territory (Ostia Antica, the Appian Way, the Etruscan Museum of Villa Giulia, the Villa Adriana and Villa d'Este in Tivoli, etc…). Not surprisingly, the upgrading of such a significant number of the main state museums and sites – which is deemed to imply a separation from their original territorial context, as well as from the related Soprintendenze - is also causing much controversy among heritage professionals, notably as far as the further fragmentation of the former, wide reaching Rome soprintendenza for antiquities into so many autonomous – thus independent and among them disconnected - museums and archaeological sites is concerned.
Besides MiBACT, the other ministries also involved in cultural matters are the following:
The Prime Minister's Office
The responsibilities for the allocation of financial support to the press, and for the conventions related to RAI (the state agency for radio and television) for providing additional public services - broadcasting abroad, etc…- are exercised by the Department for Information and Publishing of the Prime Minister's Office, headed by an Undersecretary of State for Information, and Publishing.
The Ministry of Economic Development
After the abolition in 2008 of the Ministry for Communications – responsible for media and ICT regulatory functions as well as for financial support to local radios and television networks – responsibility for communications has been entrusted to an Under Secretary for Communications, attached to the Ministry for Economic Development. Its regulatory functions are carried out jointly with AGCOM (Authority for Guarantees in Communications: see chapter 4.2.6).
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation
The Ministry's responsibilities for international cultural cooperation (exercised in cooperation with the Ministry of Heritage) are mostly entrusted to the Directorate Central for the Promotion of Italian Culture and Language, although other DGs, and in particular the DG for Cooperation and Development, very active in heritage matters, are also involved.
The Ministry of Education, University and Research
Through its DG for Higher Arts, Music and Dance Education, the Ministry is responsible for higher arts education, which is provided in its national Fine Art Academies, in the National Drama Academy and the National Dance Academy, and in the music conservatories (see chapter 5.1). It also runs several other educational institutes providing diplomas in artistic and musical training.
- Legislative functions
State legislative functions in the cultural field lie presently with the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate, and are notably exercised through their Cultural Commissions. It should actually be mentioned that, at the end of 2015, the Senate has undergone a wide reaching reform process, which will not be enacted – though - until confirmed by a referendum to be held in autumn 2016.
Besides the specific legislation in cultural matters, the yearly adoption of the Budget Law presently allows both Chambers to play a relevant role in the funding system, as the Parliamentary debates on this law often produce heated discussions on the pros and cons of public financing of culture. These debates can lead, on one hand, to the integration of statutory cultural budgets with additional funding from other sources (see chapter 4.1.2) - e.g. with lottery money (Budget Law for 1997), or with the 3% of capital investment in infrastructure (Budget Law for 2004) - on the other hand, more and more often in recent times, to cuts in budget line items and / or to austerity measures. This has been the case with the most recent budget laws – now called Financial Stability Laws – and in particular with the one for 2011 (see chapter 2.9).
Last update: May, 2016
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.
Last update: May, 2016
Along with the state, the 8 101 municipalities are by now undoubtedly the most prominent public actors and funding source in Italy's cultural scene, so much so that, notwithstanding the cuts undergone since 2008 (-19%), the total amount of their expenditure for culture in 2013 – 1 990 million EUR (ISTAT data).– was still substantially higher than the expenditure by MIBACT itself for the same year: 1 609 million EUR.
Through their municipal departments for culture / "assessorati comunali alla cultura", they play a paramount role in the direct and indirect (see chapter 1.3.3) management of municipal cultural institutions: museums and sites, archives, libraries, theatres, multifunctional cultural centres, etc.
Italian municipalities are also investing highly in the restoration and maintenance of their historic assets, albeit under the supervision of the Ministry, and in building cultural premises, with special attention given, in the early 2000s, to capital investment in modern and contemporary art museums and in performing arts centres (see for instance the new MACRO - Museo Arte Contemporanea in Rome, the GAM in Turin, the GAMEC in Bergamo, the MART in Rovereto, the Museo del Novecento in Milan, and the Three Halls Auditorium by Renzo Piano in Rome.).
Municipalities also promote and support a wide range of cultural activities, actively contributing to the rich national supply ofart exhibitions, performing arts festivals, literature festivals, street events, White Nights (Notti Bianche), cultural minorities' celebrations, etc.
Last update: May, 2016
A quite relevant phenomenon in Italy in the last decades has been the growing contribution of voluntary services – by associations as well as by individual citizens - to the public cause. In response, Law 226 on Volunteering, adopted in 1991, represented official endorsement by the national Parliament, of the relevant value for civil society of voluntary associations in every field of social and economic activity. It also provided them with fiscal benefits and financial support. It is no wonder that, according to Istat surveys, the number of voluntary organisations increased by 152% in 2003, compared with 1995.
Cultural activities carried out in the field of archaeology, museums and sites, as well as the performing arts, by associations active both at the national (e.g. Italia nostra, FAI, Amici dei Musei),or at the local level, have been at the core of this movement from the start, subsequently followed by other, like the Associazione Bianchi Bandinelli. At the end of 1991, a first "protocol of agreement" between the Ministry of the Heritage and the National Centre for Volunteerism was finally signed, to allow the utilisation of volunteers in museums, and, subsequently, in public libraries and archives: prior to 1991 their access to these premises, in fact, had not been possible, because volunteers were considered a threat to paid employment by the public servants. A second agreement with four of the main voluntary associations active in the cultural and environmental field (Archeoclub, Arci, Lega Ambiente, Auser)was signed by the MIBACT in 1999.
Law 226/91, and the subsequent "agreements", strongly boosted the fostering of cultural volunteerism. In 2003, according to Istat, out of the 260 000 voluntary associations surveyed, 6 391 were operating in the cultural domain, with culture being the main field of activity for 1 057.
Cultural volunteerism should be singled out, indeed, as a relevant component of Italy's thriving "third sector" active in the cultural and heritage field.
Last update: May, 2016
At a horizontal level, inter-ministerial co-operation has been traditionally pursued by the Ministry of the Heritage also by means of memoranda of agreements signed, for instance, with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the field of international cultural relations (see chapter 1.4), with the Ministry of Education for arts training and education in schools (see chapter 5.1), with the Ministry of Justice for carrying out cultural activities in prisons aimed at the rehabilitation of offenders (see chapter 2.7).
A key development in horizontal co-operation has been the participation, since 1999, of the Ministry for Heritage in the Inter-ministerial Committee for Economic Planning (CIPE) of the Ministry for the Economy: a strategic committee, which is also responsible for the allocation of EU Structural Funds to the Objective 1 regions in Southern Italy, under the Community Support Framework, which substantially increased the amount of financial resources for culture in those underprivileged regions (see further).
As for vertical co-operation among government levels, common problems and quite frequent conflicts between the state and the regions have often been dealt with in the framework of the State-Regions Conference - also acting as a sort of "clearing house" for any controversy – and, more rarely, by the Constitutional Court.
Since the end of the 1990s, though, two interesting developments for more rationally planned state / region cooperation should be singled out, dealing, respectively, with the "Framework Planning Agreements" and with the "EU Structural Funds".
Multilateral Framework Planning Agreements ("Accordi di Programma Quadro") in the cultural field have been signed since 1996 by the Ministry of the Heritage with 18 of the 20 Regions. Financial resources are being made available by the Ministry of the Heritage itself, the Ministry for the Economy (CIPE), the regions, the local governments, in some cases by the European Commission, and by other private financial partners (the banking foundations, the Italian Bishop Conference, etc…) Although most of these agreements are aimed at fostering partnerships in the field of cultural heritage and museums, more recently some agreements in support of contemporary art and of the performing arts have been signed, as well.
The second, quite relevant kind of state-regions cooperation has taken place in the framework of the above mentioned EU Structural Funds and Cohesion Policies. If such regions have already benefited from several million EUR in capital investments in the cultural field under the 2000-2006 Plan, 476 million EUR out of the programmed budget of the Structural Funds for Italy's Plan 2007-2013 have been allocated to pursuing the "priority themes" preservation of cultural heritage, development of cultural infrastructures and improvement of cultural services. In fact, the related projects and activities – aimed at fostering the sustainable development of the five Objective 1 regions, now Convergence Regions (Basilicata, Calabria, Campania, Puglia, Sicilia) by upgrading their tourist attractiveness as well as the quality of life of the local population – are carried out by regional and local authorities in close cooperation with MiBACT's Regional Secretariats as far as the general planning process is concerned, whereas the Soprintendenze lend substantial support in technical assistance for restoration, research and training activities.
It should also be mentioned that, according to a survey by Fondazione Rosselli (Structural funds for culture in Italy: for cultural heritage, beyond cultural heritage, 2012), the biggest share of the funds made available for culture under the 2007-2013 Cohesion Plan (82%) – as is often the case in our country – has been earmarked for the priority theme preservation, whereas themes like infrastructures and services are lagging behind, "thus showing a "conservative" attitude, not taking into account the potential of innovative management of the Italian cultural heritage". Furthermore, whereas cooperation between MiBACT and the regions has been quite fruitful in improving planning skills and capacity building in public administration and in fostering more advanced forms of state-local partnerships, its effectiveness in boosting spending procedures has been so problematic that in June 2012 only 59% of the programmed European funds had been actually spent by the regions. In order not to lose such funds, in January 2013 the Ministry for Territorial Cohesion took over its subsidiary functions, by directly elaborating a plan for cultural attractors through which these resources could be allocated to the more immediately feasible projects. Most of the funds have been employed to finally starting off the Great Plan for Pompeii (see chapter 3.1), previously delayed by red tape. The remaining financial resources have been allocated to the Royal Palaces of Naples and Caserta, the archaeological museums of Naples, Palermo, Taranto and Reggio Calabria, and other museums, castles and archaeological sites scattered throughout the "Convergence regions".
As for the programming period 2014-2020 – in the framework of the Italian Partnership Agreement – an ad hoc line aimed at "the enhancement of the enjoyment opportunities of the heritage in the areas of cultural attractors of national relevance" is also foreseen, and already endowed with 760 million EUR to be allocated to operational programmes managed by national and regional authorities. Its aim is to enhance cultural assets in the five Italian "convergence regions" (see above), this time not only by boosting safeguarding, but also access, along with the connected economic activities dealing with the creation of new entrepreneurship, planning and capacity building.
Furthermore, in order to improve the Italian efficiency in exploiting the opportunities offered by the European cultural programmes a special "Tavolo tecnico (Technical committee) Europa Creativa" - composed of 10 members representing both the public and the private sector - has been created in May 2014 (see chapter 3.5.1).
Last update: May, 2016
Most of the Italian cultural infrastructure is still, directly or indirectly, in the public domain.
Since the end of the 1990s, though, innovative legislation brought about substantial changes in the administration system of cultural goods and activities. The main trend was- and still is - "désétatisation": i.e. gradually entrusting "third sector" status to public cultural institutions, albeit still mainly financed by the public purse, in view of granting them more autonomy, and encouraging them towards public/private partnership.
The number of these organisations – notably in the form of foundations - has grown exponentially in recent times. The main reason for this success lies in a tendency to consider foundations as flexible tools, particularly fit for privately pursuing public aims; hence the growing propensity on the part of state and local authorities to use them as new agents of public policies, as well as to foster public-private partnership. The main fields of activity of these foundations are the organisation of exhibitions and events, the management of theatres, museums and sites and the protection of cultural goods.
The process started towards the end of the 1990s at the national level, and the first of the most relevant state-owned institutions concerned have been the following, mostly active in the performing arts domain:
- the fourteen main opera houses ("Enti autonomi lirici"), transformed, by Leg Decree 367/1996, into "Fondazioni liriche"(see also chapter 1.3.3);
- the Biennale di Venezia, the Triennale di Milano and the Quadriennale di Roma: public bodies organising prestigious exhibitions and events in the domain of the visual and / or performing arts, all transformed into foundations participated by the public sector; and
- the Centro sperimentale di cinematografia, composed of two separate entities: the Cineteca nazionale (the national film archive), and the Scuola nazionale di cinema, the main training institute for film-making.
The logic behind these measures was: a) to pursue a more efficient management of these institutions, traditionally paralysed by red tape; b) to ease the burden they represent for the public purse by facilitating fundraising from the private sector. The latter aim has, however, only been partially achieved, most of their running costs still being covered by the state budget.
Compared with the relative degree of autonomy that the above mentioned performing arts institutions had already enjoyed, the situation was far more critical for museums and archaeological sites, still so heavily embedded in the Ministry's administrative structure that they did not even have a separate budget, making it impossible to single out their costs. The first experimental reform attempt, undertaken in 1998, was to grant an autonomous status and budget to the major archaeological site of Pompei, albeit keeping it in the state administrative framework (see chapter 3.1). This experiment was subsequently extended to the four national museum poles ("poli museali nazionali"): the national art galleries and museum systems in Rome, Venice, Florence and Naples. A more innovative, step - in line with Decree 368/1998, allowing the Ministry to associate with other public authorities or private entities in the operation of state institutions - was the transformation of the National Egyptian Museum in Turin into a public-private foundation, with the participation of the Piemonte Region, the Turin Province and Municipality, on one hand, and the foundations Banco S. Paolo and Cassa di risparmio di Torino, on the other.
A further transformation into foundation status of the new state museum for contemporary art, MAXXI, followed in 2009, and in 2015 ENEL/Ente Nazionale Energia Elettrica became its "founding partner"(see chapter 7.2.1).
A sudden, strong acceleration of such processes has been brought about since 2014 by the Renzi Government, by granting in 2014 a peculiar special autonomy to twenty of the main Italian museums, monuments and archaeological sites (from the Uffizi Gallery to the Royal Palace of Caserta, from the Villa Borghese to the Coliseum …) which will be soon followed in 2016 by another 10 museums, monuments or archaeological sites (see also chapter 1.2.2).
If most of the more important "desetatisation" experiments accomplished at the state level are still underway, many more changes of this type have been already carried out at the local level, as stated by subsequent yearly Federculture Reports, which assessed as many as 400 so called "gestioni autonome" (autonomous entities) active in the cultural sector.
This process was initiated by Law 142/1990 on Local Autonomies and has been further spread out and encouraged by Decree 267/2000, singling out different innovative models for the operation of "public non-economic local services". Among these models, the most frequently adopted for cultural organisations (theatres, auditoriums, exhibitions centres, museums, etc…) have been the following: foundations, institutions, associations - totalling a share of 59% - followed by companies, consortia, etc... Modernisation in managerial procedures and in promotion and communication techniques, increased capacity building, the fostering of innovative forms of public private partnership, are some of the ingredients of the growing success of these new type of cultural organisations, which can be symbolised by the extraordinary achievements of the Fondazione Musica per Roma, the operating arm of the new three hall auditorium in the capital city.
Privately owned cultural infrastructure as well: museums and galleries and, even more, theatres, are also quite usual in Italy. Both categories can apply for government funding – state and local - under certain conditions.
Only a minority of private cultural infrastructure is actually totally self-supported through the market, and / or through generous donors (the latter case is more frequent for family art collections turned into museums).
Last update: May, 2016
Table 7: Cultural institutions, by domain
|Domain||Cultural institutions (sub-domains)||Number (2014)|
|Cultural heritage||Immovable assets (registered))||
46 025 architectural goods, |
5 668 archaeological goods
|Museums, monuments and sites (organisations)||4 740 (of which 3 847 are museums)|
|Archives (of public authorities)||8 328|
|Visual arts||Public art galleries / exhibition venues||n.a.|
|Art academies (or universities)||20|
|Performing arts||Symphonic orchestras*||12 (of which 1 of national relevance)|
Music / theatre academies |
58 music conservatories, |
1 dance and 1 theatre academy
47 "Teatri stabili" (public, private, experimental), |
172 theatre touring companies
|Music theatres, opera houses*||41 (of which 14 are of national relevance)|
|Dance and ballet companies*||71|
|Books and Libraries||Libraries||13 457 (of which 46 national scientific libraries)|
Television: 7 national networks (of which 3 public networks), |
1 pay TV, 593 local.
Radio: 19 national, 1 820 local
|Interdisciplinary||Socio-cultural centres / cultural houses||n.a|
Source(s): Istat, Statistiche cultural 2014, Istat, Special surveys on Italian museums 2011, MIBACT, Osservatorio dello Spettacolo, Relazione sulla utilizzazione del Fondo Unico per lo Spettacolo 2014 (data concern only the main state-funded institutions and organisations)
As shown in Table 7, if recent data about cultural and performing arts infrastructures are being made available by official ministerial sources, as well as by Istat (the national statistical office), for the time being data on exhibition halls, music schools and cultural houses are not available.
Comparable statistical data allowing examination of trends for all the above mentioned infrastructures, besides the national ones, are also not to be easily found. The only exception is the one referring to museums and sites, whose overall number has increased by 15% in a decade: from 4 120 in 1996 to 4 740 in 2006 (the years for which the most recent special Istat surveys on Italian local museums have been carried out). Yearly statistics on museums, in fact, are made available by MIBACT only for the 424 national museums and sites.
Last update: May, 2016
The first and most far reaching reform in the juridical and administrative status aimed at a modernisation of major cultural institutions in the 1990s has been the above mentioned reform (see chapter 4.2.3) of the fourteen main public opera houses (Enti autonomi lirici) - including La Scala in Milan, the Rome Opera, La Fenice in Venice, the Maggio Fiorentino, the S. Carlo in Naples, etc. – and the only national orchestra: the Accademia di S. Cecilia, previously regulated by Law 800/1965. The reform was deemed necessary for rationalising the exceeding costs of such privileged institutions, amounting to as much as half of the total state expenditure for the performing arts and the film industry. Leg. Decrees 367/1996 and 134/1998 were thus aimed at transforming the opera houses into more flexible "lyric foundations" with a private status, possibly able to attract private capital for up to 40% of their endowment through fiscal incentives. However, only La Scala was able to immediately obtain the required private support: for the other opera houses, formally transformed into foundations, the actual development of public-private partnerships turned out to be far more problematic than expected, especially for the lyric foundations located south of Rome, in the economically less prosperous "Mezzogiorno".
As most of the financial burden of the lyric foundations is still covered by tax revenue, the 29% decrease in state allocations from 250 to 183 million EUR between 2008 and 2013, matched by the constant rise in fixed costs (mostly absorbed by salaries) is getting more and more unsustainable, urgently calling for action. To prevent the collapse of such a relevant component of Italian musical life - presently still mainly benefiting the "happy few", as only 3% of Italian citizens attended a lyric performance in 2006 (Istat, Time budget survey) - and to make its paramount costs more socially acceptable during an economic recession, a first step towards a financial rationalisation was undertaken in 2010.
Law n. 100/2010 was actually trying to cope with the precarious situation of the lyric foundations mainly by containing the dynamic of rising salaries and by calling for a deep revision of the foundations' national labour contract. The decree also foresaw the possibility to grant, upon request, a special autonomous status – allowing more freedom in decision-making and the adoption of labour contracts differing from the national one –to those foundations presenting a number of given prerequisites, later more precisely defined by Presidential Decree 117/2011: special international relevance, high level of artistic productivity, balanced budgets at least in four of the five years preceding the request for autonomous status, earned income equal to not less than 40% of the amount of state contributions, substantial amount of private financing.
No wonder that, for the time being, only two of the lyric foundations have been able to attain such, much yearned for, autonomous status: the Santa Cecilia Academy of Rome (the only Italian national orchestra), subsequently followed by La Scala. Most of the other theatres are in more or less bad shape, so much so that many of them have been put, one after the other, under the administration of external commissioners: in recent years this has been the case, among other, with Teatro Carlo Felice (Genoa), Teatro S. Carlo (Naples), the Rome Opera, Maggio Fiorentino (Florence) and Teatro Petruzzelli (Bari).
To deal with this extremely precarious situation, which threatens what is considered the cornerstone of Italian musical life, in June 2013 Minister Bray called for the institution of a technical, "emergency" panel to urgently discuss institutional and economic ways of dealing with the crisis. The result was the adoption, within Law 112/2013, of measures aimed at the re launch of the lyric foundations system as a whole through a huge set of rules concerning the reform of their statutes and of the criteria of allocation of state subsidies, taking into account the plurality of funding sources, productivity and co-productions, the need to foster creativity and artistic innovation, along with an improved territorial and social outreach. Furthermore, additional emergency measures were added for the recovery and restructuring of the lyric foundations on the verge of bankruptcy, through the creation of an ad hoc Fund of 75 million EUR for the year 2014, operated by a new, extraordinary commissioner. To get access to this fund the foundations had to draft a restructuring plan for balancing their budget within the subsequent three years, also by reducing their technical administrative personnel and by modifying their excessively indulgent additional labour contracts.
Although this emergency measure had been drafted by the Ministry having in mind a couple of the lyric foundations, it happened, unexpectedly, that eight of them, still on the verge of bankruptcy, applied for the rescue…. As a consequence, on one hand, Law 106/2014 had to provide for an increase in the Fund of an additional 50 million EUR for the year 2014, while on the other hand a wave of social unrest resulting from the harsh conditions blew down on some of the foundations, recently culminating with a rebellion, and a subsequent collective dismissal of all the musicians of the Rome Opera orchestra.
Thanks to the firmness of a brilliant sovrintendente, Carlo Fuortes, this arm wrestling finally had a happy ending in early 2015, with the re-employment of the musicians after their surrender and acceptance of modifying their loose additional labour contracts in order to improve their – previously quite low- productivity rate (their average yearly working time having been estimated at only 125 days).
No wonder if in 2016 the presently very well managed Rome Opera is at the forefront of our lyric foundations for earned income, outreach, as well as artistic excellence and innovation.
Last update: May, 2016
The subsequent stages of the multiplication of institutional actors responsible for international cultural cooperation can be synthesised as follows:
- The first of the new actors was MAE's new DG for Cooperation and Development, created by Law 49/1987 on Italian "aid for economic development and peace reinforcement". Providing support for the safeguard and valorisation of cultural heritage is among the priority aims assigned to the DG by Article 1, par.2 of the Law. After years of occasional restoration and archaeological campaigns, acceleration of the DG's activities in the heritage field was fostered by the adoption, from 1999 on, of bilateral agreements with Syria, Egypt, Iran, Lebanon and Albania, for the reorganisation of these countries' departments for antiquities. It was actually the starting point of a strong and expanding impetus for the DG's support and technical assistance – in collaboration with the Ministry for Heritage – for the safeguard of the artistic and historic assets of the developing countries (see chapter 2.5.1). It should be added that heritage programmes of this DG have been developed in addition to similar programmes still carried out by the DG for Cultural Cooperation, albeit with a much lower availability of financial resources (Ago, Santagata, Rapporto sull'Economia della Cultura in Italia, 2004). More recently, the governance of the international cooperation system has been redefined by Law 25/2014, which reconverted the DG for Cooperation into the Italian Agency for Cooperation and Development, separated from MAE, but still supervised by it, supported by an "Inter-ministerial Committee for Cooperation and Development" where all the other ministries involved are represented. The Agency has been implemented since January 2016.
- Other Directorates General were established following the adoption of two subsequent extensive reforms of MAE's organisational structure, adopted in the years 2000 and 2010, respectively. The first reform changed the Ministry's focus of the DGs from a sectorial basis to a territorial one. Consequently, the DG for Cultural Promotion and Cooperation lost responsibility for the monitoring and financially support of various, including culturally relevant, international and national organisations (the EU, the Council of Europe, the Istituto Latino Americano, the Istituto per l'Africa e l'Oriente, etc…), which were assigned to other DGs responsible for geographical areas. With the most recent reform brought about by Presidential Decree 95/2010 on the reorganisation of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs – which downgraded the DG for Cultural Promotion and Cooperation to a Central Directorate for the Promotion of Italian Culture and Language (see further) - fragmentation of cultural competences among the Ministry's administrative units appears to be even more complicated.
- The relative loss of responsibilities of the DG for Cultural Promotion and Cooperation in Italy's international cultural cooperation policies was paralleled, since early 2000, by a simultaneous upgrading of the role of the Ministry of Heritage and Cultural Activities, which had extended its responsibilities to the whole framework of national cultural policies, including the performing arts (see chapter 1) and the related promotion abroad. MiBACT's strengthened international role should be also ascribed to the growing relevance in cultural cooperation matters of the Council of the Cultural Ministers of the Union, as well as to the enhancement of Italy's leadership in advising and technically and financially supporting the developing countries' heritage policies. However, unlike in other countries, MiBACT has no specific DG in charge of foreign relations, which are shared instead among the cabinet's Diplomatic Advisor and a Unit for International Relations supervised by the Secretary General.
- Furthermore, the adoption of Constitutional Law 3/2001 –opening up Italy to a more federally oriented institutional system and thus enhancing the role of the 20 Italian regions in cultural cooperation abroad – also accounted for the multiplication of Italian institutional actors in the international cultural arena. In fact, having obtained (through the reformulated art. 117 of the Constitution) concurrent competencies with the state in the field of the enhancement of cultural goods and the promotion of cultural activities, the regions - already quite efficient in the international promotion of their own cultural image abroad – have now full legal responsibility. The organisation of artistic events, the exchanges of artists, art exhibitions and performances, are actively pursued at the regional level, in collaboration with MAE, but also autonomously. Furthermore, most of the main cities have also become quite important actors for international cultural exchanges, often in the framework of "twinning cities" bilateral agreements (Rome-Paris, etc.). Moreover, Culture 2000 and otherEU cultural programmes like ECOC/European capitals of culture – along with programmes by the Council of Europe, such as the Cultural Routes, etc. – have acted as effective catalysts for regional and local international cultural cooperation.
Further information in this chapter is thus mainly focused on the cultural cooperation activities carried out by MAE's main institutional actor: the Directorate Central for the Promotion of Italian Culture and Language.
The Directorate Central for the Promotion of Italian Culture and Language
One of the outcomes of the MAE's 2010 reorganisation was a rationalisation of the Ministry's DGs through their reduction from 12 to 8, also in view of cost saving, and of establishing a closer connection between culture and the economy. Thus the DG for Cultural Promotion and Cooperation changed to the Directorate Central for the Promotion of the Italian Culture and Language, placed - along with a Directorate Central for Internationalisation (aimed at the promotion of economic and business activities abroad) - under the DG for the Country's Promotion (Economy, Culture and Science).
This time the administrative reorganisation of the eight new DGs followed a mix of geographical and functional criteria (the latter being: political affairs and security, globalisation, promotion, European Union, etc.). Whereas UNESCO is still in the responsibility of the Directorate Central for the Promotion of Italian Culture, the competencies for monitoring and financial supporting international organisations also active in the cultural field like the UN and the Council of Europe – as well as other national organisations in North America, Russia, the Mediterranean, Eastern non EU countries and the Middle East – have been assigned to the DG for Political Affairs and Security. EU cultural affairs are dealt with by the DG for the European Union, whereas institutions active in South America, Sub Saharan Africa, Eastern Asia, fall under the competence of the DG for Globalisation.
The main areas of activity in the cultural field of the new Directorate Central for the Promotion of Italian Culture and Language – also responsible for cooperation in educational and scientific matters – lies in bilateral cultural co-operation, carried out through the Italian Cultural Institutes Abroad, through bilateral cultural agreements, and through the joint organisation of full-scale yearly cultural events.
The network of Italian Cultural Institutes Abroad – whose mission is the promotion of Italian culture and language in foreign countries – has been in operation since fascist times (1926), and has gradually become more extensive: it presently operates in 63 countries with 83 institutes, of which 54 are still located in Europe, 10 in the Mediterranean and in the Middle East, 21 in the Americas, and the rest scattered in other continents. Notwithstanding their rationalisation, more than two decades ago, by Law 401/1990, it is generally felt that this precious asset for international cultural cooperation and dialogue does not keep up with its great potential, and that a new legislative reform would be needed. Several draft laws precisely aimed at reorganising the institutes, though, have been lost over the years.
Some of the weakest points of the Institutes are considered:
- the lack of autonomy as, unlike some foreign counterparts such as the Goethe Institute, they are informally submissive to the Ministry's control – and subject to the changing moods of swinging political majorities; and
- their endemic shortages in financial resources, often barely sufficient to carry out ordinary activities (libraries, Italian language teaching, small scale events), leaving little left to wide-ranging outreach programmes.
Budget shortages have actually become progressively more severe, as an aftermath of the financial crisis: yearly allowances for the institutes' activities went down from 18.4 million EUR in 2007 to only 12.5 million in 2014 (a loss of about 30%), whereas the number of "cultural promotion" staff employed in the institutes decreased from 193 to 130 in the same years... Even if the loss in financial resources has been partly compensated by an increase in earned income - mainly achieved through the increased organisation of the (quite sought for) Italian language courses - a further downsizing of the institute's worldwide network is probably foreseen in the near future.
Bilateral cooperation is also carried out by means of bilateral cultural agreements with other countries, dealing with a whole range of activities: exchanges of scholars, artists, performances, archaeological missions, and, in particular, cinema (out of the about 70 existing bilateral agreements, in fact, half are dealing with cinema co-production). Among the most recently established cultural bilateral agreements are those with Brazil, China, Iraq, Uruguay and Vietnam.
The latest MAE's bilateral endeavour is the joint organisation of full-scale yearly cultural events in given countries, selected according to foreign policy priority criteria.
An enhanced promotion of the Italian language abroad – with a particular focus on the Americas, and on countries with huge Italian diasporas - has also been pursued with success. An encouraging increase in the number of students learning our language in the Italian Cultural Institutes (+38% between 1995 and 2000) was highlighted in a survey carried out in 2003 by the Ministry (De Mauro, 2003). As the interest towards the Italian language continues to be on the rise, it is by now taken for granted that the supply of its teaching is not able to satisfy a much increased demand and that more efforts should be made in this direction.
Regarding multilateral cultural co-operation, since the loss of competency for cultural activities related to the EU and the Council of Europe after the 2000 reform, the Directorate Central main competency dealing with international organisations presently relates to UNESCO, where the focus of Italian activities has mostly been on heritage (support to the World Heritage Centre, archaeological missions, etc...: see also chapter 1.4.2).
Is should be noted, finally, that the main problem MAE's several administrative units in charge of the promotion of Italian culture abroad have to face deals with the progressive decrease in their already inadequate financial resources. Financial data only dealing with its cultural activities are not made available by the Ministry: they are not to be singled out even as far as the Directorate Central for the Promotion of Italian Culture and Language is concerned, whose main competences are rather in the educational domain. It is well known, however, that the impact of the present financial crisis has been particularly heavy for our cultural diplomacy, in a country whose willingness to fund it had already been lagging behind other major European countries, like France and Germany. For the time being, though, because of the lack in Italian data, reliable comparisons with state expenditure for international cultural cooperation by other countries are in no way possible.
Last update: May, 2016
Italy has always been involved in a huge amount of European joint cultural programmes with the Council of Europe and the European Union.
As for the European Union, our country has always been at the forefront in the commitment for enhancing its action in the cultural field.
In the late 1990s, it was up to Italy to explore new ways of financing programmes in support of culture and heritage also aimed at pursuing the economic development and social inclusion objectives characterising the EU Structural Funds. In fact, the creation of a special Priority Axis Culture within the "European Community Support Framework 2000-2006" for the Objective 1 Regions has been a fruitful idea put forward by the then Italian Minister of Heritage, Walter Veltroni, and subsequently adopted by the European Commission (some observations about the pros and cons of cultural programmes carried out with the support of the European Structural Funds in Italy under the 2007-2013 Cohesion Plan may be found in chapter 1.2.6). The Report on Cultural Cooperation in the European Union (the so-called Ruffolo Report) adopted by the European Parliament in 2001 has also been an Italian initiative aimed at strengthening a European common policy in support of its diverse cultures.
Italy has also been actively engaged in the preparatory work for the merging of the two existing EU programmes directly supporting culture planned for 2014 (Culture 2007-2013 and MEDIA) into the new programme Creative Europe, aimed at boosting European competitiveness through the support of its cultural and creative sectors. The Italian MP Silvia Costa – the new President of the Cultural Committee of the European Parliament – has actually been Rapporteur for the Creative Europe Programme 2014-2020, finally adopted in November 2013.
As far as the very successful ECOC/European Capitals Of Culture programme is concerned, the exceptionally crowded competition for the Italian title/2019 should be mentioned, for which as many as 21 cities applied with more or less well articulated plans. Finally, the southern city of Matera was the well deserving winner. As a positive follow up of the competition, though - and in view of stimulating civic cultural planning capabilities –MiBACT decided to launch a six years competition 2016-2021 for Italian Capital of Culture. Mantova for 2016 and Pistoia for 2017 have already been rewarded with the nomination, as a result of their culturally innovative urban plans.
Among the many cultural programmes carried out by the Council of Europe with active Italian participation – like the Audiovisual Observatory, the Eurimages fund for film production and distribution, the HEREIN project in the field of heritage protection, etc… – the Cultural Routes, launched in 1987 and recently renewed with additional support by the European Commission and the European Parliament, should be singled out. The programme combines the CoE's pursuit of fostering European identity by enhancing its diversity, as well as promoting intercultural dialogue, and Italy's bias to consider the cultural heritage as one of the main assets in order to promote – along with the strengthening of peaceful coexistence – a more sustainable development. While presently focusing on the rehabilitation of the Via Francigena (the medieval pilgrims route connecting England with Rome through Belgium, France and Switzerland), Italy is involved in other routes as well, like the Phoenician Routes.
Finally, it is worth mentioning that in February 2013 the CoE's Faro Convention on the Value of Cultural Heritage for Society (2005) was ratified, albeit belatedly, by Italy. This will hopefully open new perspectives for a much-needed "reflection on the role of citizens in the processes of defining, deciding and managing the cultural environment in which communities function and evolve".
As for UNESCO, MAE's Directorate Central for the Promotion of Italian Culture and Language, and MiBACT's UNESCO World Heritage Bureau, set up in 2004, are jointly responsible for monitoring the UNESCOConventions dealing with cultural heritage – starting from the first one, the 1972 World Heritage Convention – along with their implementation. Furthermore, an ad hoc inter-ministerial committee has been established for monitoring the implementation of the two most recent conventions dealing with cultural matters: the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, and the 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions (both subscribed by our country in 2007). As far as the latter is concerned, according to art. 9, the first periodic quadrennial report focusing on the implementation of the principles of the Convention in Italy was submitted in 2012 to the UNESCO Secretariat (http://www.unesco.org/culture/cultural-diversity/2005convention/en/periodicreport/list/2012/c/Italy). Furthermore, it is worth mentioning that since spring 2013 Italy, along with France and other European countries, is actively engaged in protecting the "cultural exception" principle – one of the main cornerstones of every country's right to support its own cultural diversity through regulatory measures and financial aid – potentially threatened by a renewed attack from the US audiovisual industry in the framework of a new Transatlantic Trade and Partnership Agreement / TTPA.
It should also be noted that Italy is the country with the highest number of monuments and sites inscribed on the World Heritage List (50 sitesin2014, when "the Vineyards landscape of Piemonte: Langhe, Roero and Monferrato" was added to the list (https://whc.unesco.org/en/newproperties/date=2014&mode=list). On the other hand, for the time being, only five items (the "Sicilian Puppets", the "Sardinian pastoral songs", the "Traditional violin craftsmanship in Cremona", the "Celebration of big shoulder-borne religious processional structures" and the "Mediterranean Diet" (the latter in partnership with Spain, Greece and Morocco) are inscribed on the List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage: but many more candidates are waiting for their turn.
Furthermore, two new Italian-UNESCO agreements have been signed by Irina Bokova and Minister Franceschini in February 2016. The first, very timely one, is the creation by MiBACT- according to a UNESCO 2015 General Assembly decision - of Unite for Heritage: an Italian task force of "blue helmets for culture" - composed of 30 heritage experts and 30 specialised "carabinieri" (security armed forces) - rescue of pre and after-war world heritage archaeological sites and artefacts from war damage (as well as damage from natural disasters).
The second is the creation in Turin – a city where the promotion of cultural development has been one of the main remedies to de-industrialisation phenomena - of a UNESCO training and research centre for cultural economics.
Last update: May, 2016
The projects of professional international cooperation in the arts and culture in which Italy has engaged are countless, and a comprehensive picture cannot be drawn, given the fragmentation of the actors involved. This chapter will focus only on a few of the many significant international projects in the area of cultural goods and the performing arts.
Among the many programmes dealing with cultural goods, the Michael-Multilingual Inventory for Heritage in Europe should be singled out. Started in 2004by the Italian Ministry for Heritage in partnership with the French Ministry for Culture and the UK Museums, Libraries and Archives Council – with the support by the EU Commission in the framework of the Programme e-TEN (Electronic Trans-European Networks) – the project is presently extended to 19 European countries. Its aim is the creation of a Trans-European Portal for on-line multilingual access to the digital cultural contents through the adoption of common standards. Universities and the regions are involved in the project as well. Another note-worthy European cultural portal giving access to 30 million pieces of data provided for by cultural institutions – 1.3 million by Italian institutions – is Europeana.
As for cooperation in the performing arts sector, two European projects previously carried out by ETI (the recently abolished national theatre institute: see chapter 4.2.3) and presently inherited by MIBACT – are also worth mentioning:
- Ecole des Maitres - an innovative multi-annual educational and artistic project started in the 1990s – is aimed at connecting young chosen professional actors from Belgium, France, Italy, Portugal, Spain… with the most innovative international stage masters (Peter Stein, Lev Dodin, Lassalle, Nekrosius, Dario Fo, …). Based on multilingual workshops travelling in different countries ending up with final public performances – this long-term project has been supported by ministries for culture of various countries, and has often benefited from the financial support of the EU.
- SPACE: a more recent international programme started with other experienced European institutions (the French ONDA, TIN from the Netherlands, the British Council, Pro Helvetia …) is a European platform aimed at fostering information, research and data collection on the performing arts, through the online programme "Travelogue". It also develops training programmes in arts management, and fosters artists' mobility and capacity building.