As the northern Italian region of Emilia-Romagna navigates the aftermath of mass displacement and destruction from record-breaking storm flooding, state museums across the nation will raise ticket prices to help fund recovery efforts. Last week, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni approved a €2 billion (~$2.15 billion) aid package funded in part by a €1 (~$1.07) museum admission price hike from June 15 to September 15.
The move comes amid worrying news of the impact of floods on Italy’s cultural heritage. In recent weeks, books and manuscripts dating back hundreds of years from the Trisi Library in Lugo and other devastated sites have been salvaged from the mess and transferred to Cesena to be frozen in industrial freezers as a means of extracting moisture to prevent further damage prior to any restoration attempts.
Emilia-Romagna is home to the cities of Bologna, Parma, and Modena and is one of Italy’s leading agricultural regions. The area was slogging through a months-long drought that made the terrain less absorbent to the 20 inches of rain that pelted the land over a two-week period. Tragically, 15 people have been killed, over 30,000 residents have had to evacuate the area, approximately 5,000 farms have been impacted, and nearly 1 million pounds of wheat crop have been destroyed since the onset of the floods, leaving multiple years’ worth of damage to the area. The heavy rains have impacted the region’s archeological and heritage sites as well, including the Malatestiana Library in Cesena and several frescoes stored at the Museo delle Cappuccine in Bagnacavallo, in addition to the Trisi Library.
However, despite the catastrophic damages from the unprecedented weather incidents, not everyone sees merit in raising ticket prices at state-run museums. Citing concerns about social equity and pointing to statistical evidence about downward trends in cultural patronage, archeology professor Giuliano Volpe told the Italian daily newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano that the government should consider other funding avenues like purpose taxes.
“Italy has one of the lowest levels of cultural life among OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries,” Volpe said. “Almost 50 percent of the population doesn’t even have a minimum level of cultural life: that is, they don’t read a book, they don’t go to a museum, they don’t go to the theater, and don’t attend a concert. So further lowering the level of cultural life, which is and must remain an essential right for all citizens, I think is not a good choice.”
It’s worth noting that this decision falls in line with the Ministry of Culture’s earlier efforts to raise museum admission fares in response to climate emergency protests targeting historically and culturally significant works of art and landmarks across the nation.
“The continuous attacks and offenses that are increasingly occurring and damaging our artistic and cultural heritage require us to rethink and reinforce their level of protection,” Italian Minister of Culture Gennaro Sangiuliano said in a statement late last year when floating the idea of increasing admission fares. Sangiuliano has been at odds with climate awareness protestors — particularly those from Ultima Generazione (the Last Generation), who staged a demonstration at the Trevi Fountains in Rome on Sunday, May 21, in acknowledgment of the Emilia-Romagna floods caused by climate change.