Six Italian Cities Make the Short List for European Capital of Culture 2019

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Representatives from 21 Italian cities waited with bated breath in Rome last week as the finalists for the European Capital of Culture 2019 were announced.
In the end six cities made the short list—Cagliari, Lecce, Matera, Perugia-Assisi, Ravenna and Siena.
There is good reason for these towns to be proud: competing against so many other noteworthy cities, all with their own unique histories and cultural assets, is no easy task.
What likely set each of these six cities apart was a distinct vision for their cultural development and novel ideas for their future.


The competition is a bit like a cultural olympics. A panel of cultural experts from the European Union chooses a country (or two) and its cities compete to represent their country and become the European Capital of Culture for one year.
Cities that apply must provide information about its history and culture, the types of events it proposes to have throughout the year, their budget, and a description of how it plans to manage the program.
The committee examines not only a city’s past, but also its goals for the future.
Being chosen gives the host city an opportunity to rejuvenate its image, increase its cultural and social programs and benefit monetarily, as it will inevitably see an increase in tourism.


Androulla Vassiliou, the European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, said this regarding the selected cities: “I would like to warmly congratulate the cities for their nominations, following the first round of the competition. More than 20 cities – a record number – applied for the title. This is proof of the popularity of the European Capital of Culture. Just being short-listed for the title can result in significant cultural, economic and social benefits for the cities concerned, provided that their bid is part of a longer-term culture-led development strategy. The Capitals are an opportunity for Europeans to learn more about each other and to enjoy their shared history and values: in other words, to experience the feeling of belonging to the same European community. I encourage all of the pre-selected cities to make the best of this project.”


The European Capital of Culture (originally called European City of Culture) began in 1985. It was the idea of two European Ministers of Culture: Greece’s Melina Mercouri and France’s Jack Lang. They felt that countries did not pay enough attention to culture and that culture was often eclipsed by politics and economics. They started this program so that cities could show their cultural strengths and share them with their European neighbors.

For the year 2019, two countries—Italy and Bulgaria—were chosen. Bulgaria’s short list will be announced next month and the final decisions for the European Capitals of Culture 2019 will be made in 2015.

Diane Hirsch

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