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Status of Colosseum and ticket revenues flare up dispute between Pd and 5-Star movement

by Andrea Carli

The match is mostly political. But also with an impact on Rome’s public finances. On the one hand populist Five Star Movement, on the other centre-left Democratic party. The object of the arm wrestling is the Colosseum, which guarantees very high revenues through entrance ticket sales (over €38 million in 2016): the arena attracts more than 6 million visitors a year. It’s the most visited monument in Italy. So the Roman amphitheater where gladiators clashed 2,000 years ago is a hen of golden eggs.

Just a few days ago, on June 7 the Lazio Regional Administrative Court (TAR), rejected the new rules and organization introduced by the government to the management of the monument.

In January Italian Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism Minister Dario Franceschini, member of Paolo Gentiloni’s government, announced that the amphiteatre would become the centrepiece of a new archaeological site, which would then be managed centrally by the State. Thus separating it from the city’s other ancient Roman remains, managed directly by the city’s archeological superintendent. And also drastically reducing the city’s in-takings.

Rome Municipality, run by Mayor Virginia Raggi (Five Star Movement) rejected the provision that changed the way in which revenues were handled and distributed, and appealed to TAR Lazio to block the government’s decision. One of 5-Star’s objections to the Colosseum reorganization was that it would provide less revenues to the local administration compared to revenues guaranteed by the current management.

Last Wednesday, June 8, the court upheld 5-Star’s complaint. Minister Franceschini reacted saying he will oppose the rule and go to the higher court, Consiglio di Stato.

The stop on the Colosseum’s new status was the second opposed in two weeks to Franceschini’s strategy to promote Italy’s cultural heritage and enhance its value. On May 26 two sentences by TAR Lazio ruled that the evaluation process in international recruitment conducted by Italian Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism Ministry for the post of Director at five museums was confused and opaque. TAR Lazio also questioned the hiring of foreigners to some of the positions to be filled.

Franceschini replied that his changes to Italy’s network of 400 state museums in 2016 caused a 12% rise in ticket revenues, which reached €172 million.

Arm wrestling between Pd and Five Star Movement isn’t ending here, for sure.