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Italian Cultural Heritage at Risk

Italian cultural heritage is at risk for various factors, from thieves to neglect and lack of

The international public opinion was recently shaken by the Girolamini library scandal. Thousands
of rare and antique books last year were discovered to have disappeared from
the 16th century Girolamini library complex in Naples.

The case arose last year when a visiting art historian Tommaso Montanari pointed out the chaos
in the way of cataloguing the books and keeping them. When the prosecutors investigated,
the former director of the library Massimo Marino de Caro was arrested for the
illegal selling of the  precious books in Italy and abroad.

It is difficult to tell how many books were stolen because many of the volumes weren’t catalogued,
but according to the investigators they might be more than 4000, including
works of Galileo Galilei and a 1518 edition of Thomas Moore’s Utopia.

Culture represents in Italy one-sixth of the economical activity, and it  deserves much more attention and investments.

As the newspaper online “L’ inchiesta” reported, according to a survey conducted by “Unioncamere
Symbola Foundation”, the system of cultural and creative industries in 2011
generated 5.4% of the Italian GDP and, if one includes tourism, education,
local products, construction in areas of historical and artistic interest, the
influence comes to 15%.

However, by the findings from research conducted using the digital archive Google
Harvard-cultural indicators of competitiveness, Italy with regard to architecture
and museums has lowered it score from 60 points in 1900 to 18 in 2000, while
the U.S. and Japan have grown respectively from 50 to 100 points and from 20 to

In the Art sector the Italian score has also dramatically dropped from 600 points in 1900 to 105
in 2000.

All this represents a sad aspect if we consider that Italy is the country with the largest number
of sites included in the list of world heritage, followed by Spain (44 sites)
and China (43 sites).

All these sites should represent a resource for a country and not an economical problem.

Giulia Lombardo

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