Hundreds apply for nine top jobs at Italy’s cultural sites

Some 390 people have applied to head up nine of Italy’s museums and archaeological sites as part of a plan to revive Italy’s lesser-known cultural treasures.

Hundreds apply for nine top jobs at Italy’s cultural sites
One lucky person will get to direct Miramare Castle in Trieste. Photo: Alessandro Caproni

The cultural ministry launched the international search in May for directors to lead sites including Rome’s National Etruscan Museum and Trieste’s Historical Museum of the Castle of Miramare.

Out of the 309 who have applied, 26 are foreign or have dual citizenship, the ministry said on Monday, while 201 are women and 189 are men.

A team of experts will now make a preliminary shortlist of no more than 10 candidates per job, with a final decision on the appointments being made at the end of the year.

“The museum revolution continues,” Culture Minister Dario Franceschini said.

The other sites include the Ancient Roman ruins of Ostia Antica, Hadrian’s Villa and Villa d’Este in Tivoli, the Pilotta monumental complex in Parma, Herculaneum, the Phlegrean Fields archaeological park and the Museum of Roman Civilisation.

The call for applicants is the second phase of a government plan to make Italy's museums – which boast some of the greatest archaeological remains and most iconic pieces of art in the western world – more competitive.

An international recruitment drive in 2015 saw the government appoint seven foreign directors at some of the country's biggest museums in a bid to boost visitor numbers.

Despite the cultural riches Italy owns, not one Italian museum is in the top ten globally in terms of visitors.

Florence's Uffizi art gallery pulls in just 1.5 million visitors each year, a fraction of the 8.5 million who visit the Louvre gallery in Paris each year.

The four-year roles pay €78,000 a year, plus bonuses.

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Why Friday the 13th isn’t an unlucky date in Italy

Unlucky for some, but not for Italians. Here's why today's date isn't a cause for concern in Italy - but Friday the 17th is.

Why Friday the 13th isn't an unlucky date in Italy

When Friday the 13th rolls around, many of us from English-speaking countries might reconsider any risky plans. And it’s not exactly a popular date for weddings in much of the western world.

But if you’re in Italy, you don’t need to worry about it.

There’s no shortage of strongly-held superstitions in Italian culture, particularly in the south. But the idea of Friday the 13th being an inauspicious date is not among them.

Though the ‘unlucky 13’ concept is not unknown in Italy – likely thanks to the influence of American film and TV – here the number is in fact usually seen as good luck, if anything.

The number 17, however, is viewed with suspicion and Friday the 17th instead is seen as the unlucky date to beware of.

Just as some Western airlines avoid including the 13th row on planes, you might find number 17 omitted on Italian planes, street numbering, hotel floors, and so on – so even if you’re not the superstitious type, it’s handy to be aware of.

The reason for this is thought to be because in Roman numerals the number 17 (XVII) is an anagram of the Latin word VIXI, meaning ‘I have lived’: the use of the past tense apparently suggests death, and therefore bad luck. It’s less clear what’s so inauspicious about Friday.

So don’t be surprised if, next time Friday 17th rolls around, you notice some Italian shops and offices closed per scaramanzia’.

But why then does 13 often have a positive connotation in Italy instead?

You may not be too surprised to learn that it’s because of football.

Ever heard of Totocalcio? It’s a football pools betting system in which players long tried to predict the results of 13 different matches.

There were triumphant calls of ho fatto tredici! – ‘I’ve done thirteen’ – among those who got them all right. The popular expression soon became used in other contexts to mean ‘I hit the jackpot’ or ‘that was a stroke of luck!’

From 2004, the number of games included in Totocalcio rose to 14, but you may still hear winners shout ‘ho fatto tredici’ regardless.

Other common Italian superstitions include touching iron (not wood) for good luck, not toasting with water, and never pouring wine with your left hand.