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Nearly 20% of Italians spare no effort to belie “land of culture” cliché

by Lorenzo Zanini

Italy, land of culture. Well, sort of. That's what we think, not unreasonably given the artistic and cultural heritage our country is blessed with from northern tip to southern toe of the ‘Boot.'

We do have that reputation abroad, as well. The latest figures from ISTAT, though, tell a different story. Italians may be steeped in unique beauty, surrounded by works of art. They do not, however, buckle down and study, to use a scholastic parallel: in other words, they suffer from a deficit of attention and concentration, barely making it to an overall C minus minus.

Let's have a look at these sorry figures then: around 18.5% of the Italian population, i.e. one person out of five, is not involved in any remotely cultural activity – not even the simplest sort, not even once in a while. They have not read a single book or newspaper over the past year, have not been inside a museum, seen an exhibition or an archaeological site, have not been to the theater, the movies or a concert, have not even attended a sporting event or gone dancing. The percentage is higher in the south (28.2%) and lower in northeastern Italy (12.1%).

What's more, not many Italians bother to keep up with the news: over half of the population (51.9%) hasn’t thumbed through a paper for weeks at a time in 2015. Nearly six out of ten Italians did not read a single book last year; not to mention visits to museums or exhibitions, unheard of by 68.3%.

88.3% of Italians did not attend a concert of classical music (78.8% did not even attend a concert of modern or contemporary music), and almost 80% did not set foot into a theater.
Movie theaters fare a little better but even they were frequented by a limited percentage of the population: 48.9% has not seen a single film on the big screen in the entire year, and the percentage is even higher (90%) for Italians over 75.

As for museums, 68.3% of the population steers clear of exhibitions (78.5% in the south of Italy). The trend starts with 20-year-olds and peaks with over 75-year-olds (88.3%).

Archaeological sites and galleries are totally ignored by 74.7% of our countrymen and countrywomen, even more if they live in the southern regions (81.4%).

On the reading front, books are particularly neglected in the south (62.7%) and by children and teens (92% overall, 84.9% in the case of kids below 15, 74.5% ages 15 to 17 and 66% in the case of 18 and 19-year-olds). Half the female population “snubs” reading and so do a whopping 63.4% of men.

On the other hand, Italians are getting increasingly accustomed to the new technologies: 56.5% of the population has declared they used a computer in 2015 and 60.2% used the internet. 40.3% surfs every day; in fact, surfers have grown by 2.8% in 2015 compared to 2014.

In conclusion, the Italian people has confirmed its historic propensity for... navigation, while they are not quite so well versed in the arts and reading.