G7 culture ministers urge end to heritage trafficking

Culture ministers of the Group of Seven industrialised countries meeting in Florence urged all nations Thursday to adopt strong measures to fight the destruction and trafficking of cultural treasures.

G7 culture ministers urge end to heritage trafficking
Culture Minister Dario Franceschini with a Palmyra bust which was restored by Italy after being damaged by the Isis extremist group. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

In a joint statement, the G7 ministers called particularly on countries in conflict situations “to identify and ban the trade in stolen cultural artefacts.”

The meeting in the culturally rich Italian city of Florence was the first of its kind for the G7 grouping and the brainchild of Italian Culture Minister Dario Franceschini.

“It is vital that the G7 nations play an important role at the heart of the international community, not only economically but also through their values, their ideas, their principles,” said Franceschini, hosting his counterparts from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Japan and the United States.

Britain's Culture Minister Karen Bradley thanked her G7 colleagues for their solidarity following the deadly attack in Westminster last week.

On the issue of the trafficking of cultural items she said: “There is an urgent need for action”.

“We are witnessing looting and vandalism on a heart-breaking scale. Not only do these assaults help finance terrorism, they are a calculated attempt to destroy people's history, culture, and identity.”

Ahead of the talks Franceschini said “because of the importance of our own heritage, Italy has a leadership role in issues of culture”.

“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.

The meeting is part of the preparations for a summit of the leaders of the G7 countries in Sicily at the end of May.

Also taking part in the meeting was EU Culture Commissioner Tibor Navracsics and Irina Bokova, head of the UN cultural body Unesco.

“We need still more political will to put culture at the centre of the international agenda,” Bokova said.


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.