Italy’s museums draw record number of visitors with over 50 million

Meanwhile, 80 prominent curators and historians have signed a petition denouncing Minister of Cultural Heritage’s Dario Franchescini’s budget reforms
ANSA


Pubblicato il 06/01/2018
Ultima modifica il 06/01/2018 alle ore 22:11

Italian museums and archaeological sites have been experiencing renewed vitality for the last couple of years. Minister of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism, Dario Franchescini revealed the country’s latest museum attendance figures, which surpassed its goal of 50 million visitors in 2017, with admissions fees ringing in over 200 million euro. 

 

The Ministry’s statistics (MiBAC) on the state of national museums showed that the 5 most visited national cultural heritage sites are the Colosseum (over 7 million), Pompeii (3.4 million), Uffizi (2.2 million), Florence Academy (1.6 million) and Castel Sant’Angelo (1.1 million), while the three most popular regions were Lazio, Campania and Tuscany. 

 

Franchescini stressed the country’s double-digit growth rates: From 38 million in 2013 to 50 million in 2017, visitors increased in four years by about 12 million (+ 31%), while revenues grew by 70 million euros (+53%). Comparing these figures to 2016, last year saw an increase of 5 million visitors and 20 million euros in admissions fees. These are precious resources that contribute to the protection of Italy’s cultural patrimony. 

 

Central to this growth has been Campania, the south west region of Italy known for its ancient ruins. Franchescini noted that visitors flocked to Pompeii, the National Archeological Museum of Naples, and the Royal Palace of Caserta. Liguria (+ 26%), Puglia (+ 19.5%) and Friuli Venezia Giulia (15.4%) meanwhile recorded the highest regional growth rates. Yet, robust success has been credited to a newfound appreciation for cultural heritage, stronger research and the involvement of schools and other educational institutions. 

 

But all this prosperity hasn’t swayed the 80 curators, art historians and academicians who signed a petition on January 3 denouncing Franchescini’s reforms. The appeal states that the Ministry of Cultural Heritage’s current code of ethics “silences colleagues in service by not allowing them to denounce the current situation of chaos and paralysis created by an alleged reorganization by order, or amendments to the budget law.” 

 

Among the first to endorse the petition include professors from the Academy of the Lynx-Eyed (Lincei) such as Adriano La Regina, Fausto Zevi, Piero Guzzo, former supervisor of the archeology of Rome, Naples and Pompeii, and Andrea Emiliani, former supervisor of the historical and artistic heritage of Bologna and Romagna. 

 

For one, the petitioners criticized the ministry for “magnifying extraordinary achievements while Italian state spending remains among the lowest in Europe — one third of France’s, and half of Spain’s.” 

 

Franceschini is also being attacked for appointing new directors of grand museums (often foreigners) and giving them mega-salaries, often without adequate experience. “Driven by profit making schemes, they organize weddings, banquets and graduation parties, as well as a number of exhibitions that have little to do with the history of those venues,” the petitioners wrote. “The underlying error is the claim to make money with cultural assets. Money is made with tourism, as visitors are attracted by historical goods and landscape attractions.” 

In Paris for instance, half of the Louvre’s costs are state-funded, while the admissions fee is justified for visitors who are provided with an excellent network of services. Elsewhere in London, since 2001, state museums are free, including the British Museum and the National Gallery, spurring a 50% increase in tourism. 

“Franceschini has created just three regional landscape plans out of the 20 expected,” said one of the petitioners and journalist-writer Vittorio Emiliani. “Our museums, although driven to make money, provide just 8% of the ministry’s budget. The choice is not to squeeze money at the expense of cultural protection and heritage, but to educate citizens and attract qualified tourism.” 

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