ROME – The good news is that during the three days of the European Christmas holiday—Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and St. Silvester’s on Dec. 26—some 64,000 people visited Italy’s thirty most important cultural sites, 17% more than last year. Even on Christmas Day the sites—they included Rome’s Castel Sant’Angelo, Turin’s Museum of Egyptian Antiquities, the Pinacoteca di Brera art gallery in Milan, the Reggio castle at Caserta—were kept open, and entry was free.
The bad news is that, as part of Premier Mario Monti’s budget package, restoration funding for churches, museums, archaeological sites and libraries will be slashed by $73.4 million. The reasoning is understandable: something has to go, and that amount, taken from the charity donations that are part of the annual income tax payment (“otto per mille”), is normally devolved toward restoration projects. Instead, this year’s money will be used to try to ease the situation in Italy’s drastically overcrowded prisons.