With the beginning of this week, and after months of closure, Italian museums, theaters and cinemas have reopened their doors in most of the country’s regions. And with a €6.7 billion ($8 billion) plan, Italy’s Minister of Culture Dario Franceschini is now intending to relaunch the entire sector. “Culture will give a great contribution to the country’s recovery,” he announced.

The art and culture sector has been one of the most affected by the pandemic. Now, it looks forward to the summer for a full restart, also thanks to open air events. “The strengthening of historical railway lines, of walking trails and cultural itineraries are also going to be essential for the development and the enhancement of the internal areas from a cultural point of view. The objective is to improve the attractiveness of the Italian cultural and tourism system through the modernization of both its material and immaterial infrastructures,” minister Franceschini said. 

So far, in cinemas, theaters and museums Covid-19 measures entail a need to book in advance and allow access in fixed quotas. To compensate, many of these institutions have introduced innovations that are meant to attract and retain new and old visitors alike. The daily La Repubblica has widely covered museum reopenings in several Italian cities.

At Florence’s Uffizi Galleries, for example, 14 new rooms now host about 129 unseen works from artists such as Andrea del Sarto, Parmigianino, Pontormo, Daniele da Volterra, Rosso Fiorentino, Bartolomeo Passerotti (his Homer’s Enigma was believed to have been lost for centuries), and self portraits by Bernini, Chagall and Guttuso. About 1,500 visitors have already showed up on the day of the reopening, and another 1,000 visitors per day have made their booking until the end of 2021. The museum director Eike Schmidt commented: “We are waiting for the Americans to come back, and when it will be time we will also be ready to welcome the European tourists.”

At Pinacoteca di Brera, in Milan, museum director James Bradburne chose to turn visitors into kinds of ‘shareholders’: a €15 ticket now allows visitors to come back to the museum for free as many times as they like, within the following three months. “In the post-Covid world, our commitment is far from recreating a fragile dependency from mass tourism, and directed towards the community: the ticket becomes a card and the visitor is a stakeholder that belongs to the Brera community,” Bradburne explained. This kind of ‘fidelity card’ also allows access for one year to the BreraPlus platform, an online archive which gathers content ranging from documentaries to live concerts. 

In Bologna, the reopening of museums these days happens in combination with Art City, a cultural festival taking place both indoors and outdoors in several locations around the city, from traditional exhibit venues to squares and public gardens. About 60 events between exhibitions, installations and various performances are taking place around the city on May 7-9th. “We are counting on art to launch a new summer season,” said Matteo Lepore, chief of Culture in the Bologna city council. 

In Turin, the Egyptian Museum (reopening for the 5th time since the beginning of the pandemic) has registered a sold out during the first weekend of May. While visitor Covid-19 quotas allow for about 1,300 visitors in a single day (normally, they are ten times more: 13,000 a day), the museum administrators have declared themselves happy with this weekend’s figures. Yet, during 2020 the museum was closed for about 180 days, and so far in 2021 it has only been open for 15 days. “Thanks to the state funding that we have received and thanks to our savings, we will manage to reach a break even, then we will see,” commented the museum’s president Evelina Christillin.

According to a study by EY and GESAC, before the pandemic the European culture sector used to employ about 7.6 million people, with a business worth €643 billion ($774 billion). As a whole, the industry represented 4.4% of the EU’s GDP. But with coronavirus, the loss compared with 2019 has been of -31.2%, a figure even worse than tourism (which lost about 27%), and just slightly better than aviation (-31.4%).

According to recent announcements by prime minister Mario Draghi, a national Green pass allowing for free movement between Italian regions (and to those coming from abroad) will be approved in the next weeks. This measure is meant to also help museums and cultural venues recover. Starting from mid-May, specifically, the Italian government intends to apply no more quarantine measures for Italians traveling to the country from abroad, as well as for foreign tourists coming from the EU, the US and Israel. At the same time, another European green pass is expected to be implemented by mid-June, which will further foster tourism, movement, and cultural activity. The green pass will entail meeting at least one of these conditions: either having got two vaccine jabs, a medical certificate stating having healed from the virus, or a negative Covid test done 48 hours before arrival in Italy. Currently, Italy does not accept travelers from India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Brazil.



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