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Mantua to be Italy's Cultural Capital in 2016

by Antonello Cherchi

Mantua, a “città d’arte” in Lombardy, will be the Italian Cultural Capital for 2016. The city was selected from a shortlist of ten by a judging panel of experts appointed by the Minister of Cultural Heritage, Dario Franceschini. The other contenders alongside Mantua were Aquileia, Como, Ercolano, Parma, Pisa, Pistoia, Spoleto, Taranto and Terni.

Mantua is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site and Virgil, the ancient Roman poet who wrote the Aeneid, was born in its environs. For four hundred years, Mantua was ruled by the Gonzaga family, who marked it deeply and loomed large in Renaissance times. Palazzo Te, now an international center for arts and culture, was commissioned by a Gonzaga in the 1500s.

On a more mundane note, Mantua cuisine is another of its treasures – starting with the tasty pumpkin ravioli or “tortelli di zucca.”

Besides the prestigious title, Mantua will also receive €1 million from the Ministry of Culture. The city will use the funds – together with the resources that have already been invested and those it means to collect through private donations – to complete the projects that led to the prestigious recognition in the first place.

At any rate, Mantua has already made excellent progress with its program, so much so the swiftness and efficiency shown by the administration were among the factors that led to its selection, according to Professor Marco Cammelli, president of the judging panel.

Timing for the selection process, true enough, was tight, not least because this was virtually the first time a city was singled out as Cultural Capital for Italy. True, last year saw somewhat of a precedent but actually regarded five cities – Ravenna, Cagliari, Lecce, Perugia and Siena – that were jointly chosen after having been left out of the race for 2019 European Cultural Capital (which recognition eventually went to Matera).

The nine cities that didn't win this year, however, will get their second chance in 2017, when the country's Cultural Capital will have to be picked from their number. In other words, no other city can be nominated that year. In 2018, on the other hand, there will be a new call for tenders open to all municipalities that wish to become a reference point for national culture for a year.

In future, Minister Franceschini intends to conclude the designation process a year ahead of time: in January 2017, for example, the name of the winning city for 2018 will be released – so that municipalities will have all the time they need to implement and complete their projects.

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