The first meeting of its kind for the G7 grouping was the brainchild of Italian Culture Minister Dario Franceschini.
“Because of the importance of our own heritage, Italy has a leadership role in issues of culture,” he said ahead of the talks.
“We want to translate this strength into action at the international level by putting the idea of cultural diplomacy onto countries' agenda.”
He added that the recent damage inflicted on Roman-era monuments in the Syrian city of Palmyra had raised public awareness of the importance of the issue.
Specifically, Franceschini said the meeting would focus on the protection of cultural heritage, combatting trafficking of artistic and historic items and using culture as an instrument for dialogue.
It is part of the preparations for a summit of the leaders of G7 countries – Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States – in Sicily at the end of May.