Ten things to do in Italy for the European Year of Cultural Heritage

From ancient Roman ships in Pisa to a deeper understanding of Pompeii, via a cycle route in Siena, there's plenty still to look forward to in Italy as part of the EU28-wide celebration of culture.

Ten things to do in Italy for the European Year of Cultural Heritage
The Palazzo San Giorgio in Genoa is now open to the public every first Saturday of the month. Photo: scrisman/Depositphotos

As one of the most culture-intense EU nations, Italy has plenty to offer for the European Year of Culture Heritage 2018.

Italy is hosting 1,136 events as part of the EU-wide ceremony. We can't list them all, although Italy's Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities (MIBAC) does. 330 are still active, ongoing or forthcoming. 

Here are a few to whet your appetite. 

Naples, Madre museum

[email protected]: Until 07.01.19

This collaborative project by the Archeological Park of Pompeii and Madre – the contemporary art museum in Naples – showcases sculptures, mosaics and frescoes recovered from Pompeii.

“The project reveals and displays the potential links between the various cultural institutions operating in Campania and, more generally, in the Mediterranean area, which are themselves palimpsests whose natural and cultural biodiversity define a widespread hypothetical museum, an integrated system in which – through different eras, subjects, methods, disciplines and institutions – it is possible to trace over thirty centuries of the contemporary life of Campania Felix and Mediterranean culture,” states the project's website.

More info.

Pisa, Arsenali Medicei di Pisa

The ancient ships of Pisa: Until 31.12.18

An exhibition on 30 ancient Roman ships excavated between 1998 and 2016. “One of the most important archeological discoveries of the last 20 years,” according to MIBAC.

Guided tours are for a maximum of 25 people. 

More info.

Siena, city and suburbs

Rigenerar_SI: Until 12.12.2019

A new cycle path has been created that links the historical centre in Siena, running along the city's walls, with surrounding sites. 

“A wide and multi-scope project for the redevelopment of the Sienese green valleys that remained outside the urban development of the city,” read a statement on the project website. 

More info. 

Lombardy, various sites

Opera Education: Until 31.12.18

A project geared at getting minors aged 0-18 into opera. The project includes performances, workshops and exhibitions, with special events for pregnant women.

More info.

Venice, Università Ca' Foscari Venezia

Venice Time Machine: Until 31.12.18

“The Venice Time Machine project, based on historical and cultural data from important archives and libraries and strengthened by advanced software and cutting-edge visualization methods, aims to build an interactive model of Venice and its social, economic and political environment during the centuries,” according to MIBAC. 

More info.

Palermo, various sites

Italian Capital of Culture 2018: Until 31.12.18

Palermo is hosting 132 concerts, 132 exhibitions and 12,151 programmes by artists as part of its designation as Italian Capital of Culture 2018. Dance, photography, architecture, street art, lectures and so much more in the Sicilian capital. 

More info.

READ ALSO: Ten reasons to add Palermo, Italy's cultural capital, to your 2018 bucket list 

Genoa, Palazzo San Giorgio

Palazzo San Giorgio open to the public: Until: 31.12.18

The Palazzo San Giorgio, normally closed to the public, has a rich history and is “one of the symbols of this port city,” according to MIBAC. It has served as an administrative building, a bank HQ, a customs office and even a prison. Marco Polo was imprisoned in the building in 1298. 

The Palazzo San Giorgio will be open to visitors on the first Saturday of each month. Guided tours start at 10am and 11am. 

More info.

Chiaravalle Milanese, gym

New Cultural Landscape: Until 31.12.18

An interactive project that involves residents, city-users and tourists in a “performative event” geared at regenerating this area on the outskirts of Milan. 

Chiaravalle is the name Saint Bernard of Clairvaux gave to the area when he founded the Cistercian abbey in 1135.

“In a 1100-inhabitant-village, Chiaravalle’s old school gym has been transformed into a community hub, which aspires to become the local community’s hybrid cultural space dedicated to the landscape. terzo paesaggio’s goal is to provide workshop, based on the monks’ ancient tradition of cantieri scuola and memorable experiences,” say the organisers.

More info.

Lecce, various sites

Itinerario Burdigalense: Until 31.12.18

A series of workshops and tours to promote the oldest-known Christian pilgrimage route from Europe to Jerusalem, the Itinerarium Burdigalense. The excursions along some of the ancient paths and landscapes aim to “unite the nations of Europe and the Mediterranean in a great walk.” 

More info. 

Italy-wide, various sites

Progetto Maps: Until 31.12.18

A multimedia digital project that maps museums, archeological sites, institutes and cultural sites of interest that have specific programs for the deaf. 

More info. 

Didn't find what you were looking for? There are hundreds more exhibitions, workshops and special events listed on the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities' website

READ MORE: Four civilizations in Italy that pre-date the Roman Empire


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.