Rome's deputy for culture prepares for 2025 Jubilee

Miguel Gotor is the cultural affairs advisor for the city of Rome. This professor of modern history in the department of literary, philosophical and art history studies at the University of Tor Vergata in Rome is a specialist in the history of religious life in the 16th and 17th centuries. He has collaborated with the biggest Italian newspapers (La Repubblica, La Stampa, Il Sole 24 Ore) and received the prestigious Viareggio Prize in 2008 for his essay on the writings of Aldo Moro during his hostage-taking by the Red Brigade. Today he returns to Italian and more particularly Roman cultural policy.

What is your view on Italian cultural policy over the last thirty years?

Many scholars have questioned the link between culture and politics in Italian history in recent decades. They underlined, with varying degrees of nuance, a substantial fragmentation of this link. There is no doubt that the disconnect between politics and culture, based on the recognition of the value of the autonomy of one in relation to the other, weakens our society.

One of the most obvious practical consequences is the general lack of investment and incentives for cultural production and dissemination which has seriously penalized Italy's artistic, historical and literary heritage. Italy devotes a very small portion of its GDP to cultural heritage, a rate that is lower than the European average and other countries such as France, Germany and Spain. Public spending on culture in Italy represents around 0.3% of GDP, while the European average is 0.4%.
Furthermore, the management of cultural heritage is based on emergency logic and not on strategic planning. This is why the funds of the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (PNRR) – the Italian version of the European Recovery Plan – play a crucial role, as they allocate a substantial part of investments to the valorization of cultural assets.

What about Rome?

We are expanding and diversifying the cultural offer which, for years, was concentrated almost exclusively in the perimeter of the historic center and in the districts which developed immediately outside the Aurelian Walls demarcating the heart of the city. I am convinced that all citizens, and especially younger generations, must be offered more spaces dedicated to culture, study, creativity and socialization. They must be widely distributed throughout the city, thus correcting the strong imbalance in the cultural offer between the historic city and the most peripheral districts, and creating a stable and virtuous relationship with the activities that operate in these districts in various capacities. The strengthening of the already rich network of libraries and the creation of a system of study rooms within museums, for example, go in this direction.

The future of Roman cultural policy rests on the “Roma Caput Mundi” project. Can you detail it?

“Roma Caput Mundi” is part of the PNRR and benefits from a budget of 500 million euros for the restoration and enhancement of the city's monumental heritage. This plan, which aims to expand and diversify the tourist offer also with a view to the Jubilee of 2025, is divided into 335 interventions to be carried out under the aegis of different organizations (Ministry of Tourism, Ministry of Culture, Colosseum Archaeological Park, Archaeological Park of the Appian Way, Diocese of Rome, Lazio Region and Rome Capital). It is a shared strategy, but one that places the capital in a central position, given the role of commissioner played by Mayor Roberto Gualtieri. Redevelopment activities – from different entities, both conceptually and financially – will be spread across the city, including both central and peripheral areas.
Major interventions include the restoration of significant sections of the Aurelian Wall, the completion of the City of Arts in the former Testaccio slaughterhouse, the restoration of the underground and aerial structures of the Baths of Trajan and the Baths of Titus within the Colle Oppio park, the enhancement of the structures and the new layout of the Museum of Roman Civilization, interventions on the imperial forums (Augustus, Trajan, Peace Forum) and the enhancement of the medieval Conti tower.

What relationships should the public and private sectors maintain with regard to cultural heritage?

They must be virtuous and we must strengthen them. Italian legislation on cultural heritage provides specific rules which allow individuals to carry out acts of patronage to finance the restoration and enhancement of monuments and works of art. Many recent interventions on the cultural heritage of our city are the result of this synergy: I am thinking in particular of the Sacred Space of Largo Argentina, returned to the public after a long redevelopment work financed by the jeweler Bulgari or the Mausoleum of Auguste, whose restoration, which is currently being completed, was financed by the TIM Foundation. The restoration of the fountain of the Goddess of Rome on the Campidoglio square is supported by the Laura Biagiotti group in collaboration with the Intesa San Paolo Bank.

What do you think of the recurring proposal to create an “Italian Louvre” in Rome?

The experience of the Musée Napoléon, established in Paris at the beginning of the 19th century, differs considerably from the genesis of Roman museums, some of which date back centuries before the inauguration of the Louvre. The Capitoline Museums – the oldest public museum in the world – opened in 1471, when Pope Sixtus IV returned to the Roman people some ancient bronze statues kept in his Lateran palaces. In Rome we then have the Vatican Museums, which, although belonging to the Holy See, fall geographically within our city.
Starting from these premises, I believe that the idea of ​​reproducing foreign models in our city which has its own specificity which makes it both unique and universal is not feasible. Rather, it is appropriate to focus on enriching and enhancing what already exists, thus respecting the rich museum history of Rome and promoting it in a coherent manner, in order to enhance our cultural identity, and also contribute to a better tourist offer. This makes it easier to manage visitor flows, which are thus better distributed. A system of museums spread throughout the territory can offer, in my opinion, a more authentic experience to those who come to visit Rome.

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