Italy's Matera in spotlight as European Capital of Culture 2019

Source: Xinhua| 2019-01-20 06:20:12|Editor: Li Xia
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ROME, Jan. 19 (Xinhua) -- Italy's southern city of Matera officially inaugurated its status of European Capital of Culture 2019 with an opening ceremony on Saturday.

A spectacular show themed "Open Future" was staged before the officials including Italian President Sergio Mattarella, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, and Culture Minister Alberto Bonisoli, and European Commissioner of Culture Tibor Navracsics.

Yet, celebrations involved the entire Matera and its very core -- represented by the cave dwellings known as "Sassi" (Italian for stones) -- with initiatives, light installations, and some 2,000 musicians from Italian and European marching bands across its streets till late at night.

The Italian prime minister praised the city and its population, stressing the yearlong initiative could help relaunch not only Matera but also the entire,and less developed, south of Italy.

"The beauty of this land is very different from the usual standards of beauty through which we use to measure the world," Conte said.

"It provides us with a great lesson on the deepest meaning of the aesthetic dimension."

The initiative will last up to Dec. 31, 2019, and will offer a dense program of events, projects and expositions aimed at celebrating both the local and the European culture.

The intent of the European Union (EU) project of the Capitals of Culture -- since its inception in 1985 -- is in fact to encourage people discover the diversity of the continent, and put cities at the heart of its cultural life.

Matera, located in the southern Basilicata region, shares its status with the Bulgarian city of Plovdiv, which has unveiled a program of 300 cultural projects and almost 500 events.


Matera's Sassi and Park of the Rupestrian Churches were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1993.

Stretching over an area of about 10 square kilometres, the settlement includes houses, churches, buildings, cisterns, and monasteries built into natural caves on the flanks of steep ravines inhabited since the Palaeolithic Age.

Matera started its recovery in the 1990s -- especially thanks to tourism and craftsmanship -- up to becoming one of Italy's most visited destinations by people travelling in Europe.

According to data released by business association Assoturismo Confesercenti in early 2018, Matera saw the number of tourist overnight stays grow by 176 percent between 2010 and 2017.

Official statistics by the Basilicata region showed the city registered over 513,800 arrivals and 1.76 million overnight stays in 2017.


Scheduled events will include the open-air performance of Pietro Mascagni's opera Cavalleria Rusticana, in co-production with the San Carlo theater in Naples, in early August.

Some 500 residents of Matera will be on stage, performing alongside professional singers in what organizers described as "an innovative way of enjoying opera and emphasizing its cultural value."

The program also includes an exhibition on the role of mathematics throughout history, an international summer camp on design, visits to subterranean architectures, exhibitions on Matera's local traditions, plus concerts, poetry contests, and readings.

Overall, some 800 artists and cultural operators from all over the world would perform in Matera, according to organizers.


The yearlong program of Matera 2019 put a special focus on promoting social inclusion and diversity.

Indeed, explaining the reasons for awarding Matera the status of European culture capital, the international jury panel that made the choice in 2014 said it was impressed by "the vibrancy and innovation of its artistic approach."

"Matera's aim of being at the forefront of a movement stripping away the barriers to culture, especially through new technologies and learning, is visionary," they wrote.

"There are several projects, which have the potential to attract a wider and varied European audience, including the major Southern Renaissance exhibition."

In his closing remarks at the ceremony, the Italian president indeed emphasized the crucial role of culture in promoting social inclusion and identity.

"Culture is the very connective tissue of the European civilization," Mattarella stressed.

"Not the culture of the few, which generates inequality in knowledge and therefore in opportunities, but an inclusive culture that generates solidarity."