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Italy spends €1bn in historic boost for cultural heritage

Sites including Pompeii, Paestum and the earthquake-stricken city of L’Aquila get major cash injection

The Italian government announced yesterday, 2 May, that it is allocating €1bn to major restoration and building projects at 33 museums, monuments and archaeological sites across the country, including Pompeii, the earthquake-stricken city of L’Aquila and the Uffizi galleries in Florence. The culture minister Dario Franceschini described the funding, which will continue until 2020, as the “biggest investment in cultural heritage” in Italy’s history.

The “one billion for culture” campaign brings a much-needed boost to projects that have been delayed or shelved over the years due to a lack of resources, Franceschini said. The city of L’Aquila in the central Abruzzo region, which was devastated by an earthquake in 2009, will receive €30m to complete the restoration of its Medieval walls, cathedral and Santa Maria Paganica church. Milan’s prestigious Pinacoteca di Brera will have €40m for its long-awaited expansion.

Following an €18m grant from the Italian culture ministry last year, the Uffizi in Florence gets a further €40m to complete its vast modernisation plan, which dates back to the 1960s. The additional funding will also open up the Vasari corridor across the river Arno, an idea mooted in the 1990s. The portrait-lined passageway built for the Medici family by Giorgio Vasari in the 16th century can only be visited by appointment.

But the lion’s share of the funding is going to Naples and the Campania region in the beleaguered South. The National Archaeological Museum of Naples is getting €20m to improve its exhibition spaces and access, while the Capodimonte Museum will have €30m to revamp its collection displays. The 18th-century palace of the Bourbon kings, the Reggia di Caserta, will have €40m to restore its building and surrounding parkland. The government is also investing in the region’s archaeological sites: €40m for Pompeii, €25m for the Campi Flegrei, €20m for Paestum and €10m for Herculaneum.