ROME—A victory for the South of Italy: the coronation of Matera to become Europe’s capital city of culture in 2019. A victory, seen as a breath of fresh air, able to push the boundaries of the Region of Basilicata, and make it known to the whole world.
While the organizational machine begins to move, the Committee ‘Matera2019’ is already taking the first steps towards the window represented by Expo 2015 in Milan. It is clear that opportunities go hand in hand with the work that needs to be done in the next few years.
After the ritual celebration, the first call comes from Federconsumatori, Italy’s biggest Consumers’ Association. The main issue is to complete infrastructural works, such as roads and railways, necessary for the success of the event. The railway station, whose works have been blocked since 1986, is in a shabby state today.
“Matera is a gem, which is finally recognized in the eyes of the world,” according to Federconsumatori. “We must do everything to get ourselves prepared for 2019: it is an opportunity not to be missed. It will bring new developments to the area, both cultural and economic, which may offer important touristic features.”
The Committee estimated at least 5 million visitors in the course of 2019. They will be reversed in the small town of Matera with about 60,000 inhabitants. An impact that the ‘city of rocks’ – Matera is a UNESCO world heritage site since 1993 – must be able to manage, cooperating with neighboring regions, and trying to ‘bring home’ those who have fled away. The unemployment rate is among the highest in Italy – 15.5% according to Italian Statistical Institute ISTAT. Many have been trying their luck elsewhere.
“We should find a way to bring back its people,” said poet Franco Arminio, one of the most influential cultural people involved in the defense and support of Southern Italy. Interviewed by newspaper Repubblica he said, “we can’t make the future without youth. […] Matera must get out of the capitalist system, like all the South, to establish a new way of acting, close to the rhythms of poetry and art, to discover our land and develop it, with social experiences, and aggregation as a result.”
A point of view shared by the city’s mayor, Salvatore Adduce. During the press conference in Rome, he praised the role played by local students in stimulating political forces to apply to become European capital of culture. “They [young people] will be the protagonists for the next few years, because we all need to walk together to build a new, large, extraordinary common path.”
A path, explained in a programmatic project, was well received by the European Commission. Every year, Brussels assigns two nations in rotation the title of European Capital City of Culture. The mission is to “highlight the richness and diversity of cultures in Europe” as well as “to increase European citizens’ sense of belonging to a common cultural area.”
An opportunity not to be missed for the ancient city, which was the scene of more than 50 national and international movies such as ‘The Passion of the Christ’ by Mel Gibson, or ‘King David’ with Richard Gere.
In the eyes of Joseph Grima, Artistic Director of ‘Matera 2019’, the victory – against Cagliari, Lecce, Perugia, Ravenna, and Siena – is the result of a concrete planning which will become reality, thanks to a €25 million investment coming from the State, and from private sponsors.
There will be few, but excellent projects “dedicated to cultural production training, promotion of public events at the national and European level, and also improving the performance of local institutions linked to culture, tourism, and education,” the Committee said. “Next year a real foundation will be laid, so to legally deal with all the challenges.”