After a year of little (or no) results, Ilaria Borletti Buitoni is still undersecretary

Yesterday saw the appointments of new MIBACT undersecretaries: after a year, we still have Ilaria Borletti Buitoni, who was joined by Francesca Barracciu.

Let’s face it: after all, although the chances were slim, we were holding out hope that Matteo Renzi would at least give us the grace to remove Ilaria Borletti Buitoni from the Ministry of Cultural Heritage. Instead, not only has she been confirmed, but the youngest Prime Minister in the history of Italy has well thought of flanking her with such a Francesca Barracciu, i.e., a PD politician who has, of course, no specific expertise in the field (but we are not surprised: we are used to it by now), but in addition has to her credit in her resume also the involvement in the investigations on the unorthodox expenses of the groups of the regional council of Sardinia(the charge is that of embezzlement). What else to add? Nothing, because the news speaks for itself: one can only say that those who had the last doubts about whether Renzi could really change things (but we have always told you: Renzi is as old as we could get), will now surely have clearer ideas.

But let’s get back to the rich Milanese lady who was reappointed to her post. We would like to be able to draw up a balance sheet of her first year in office, but this is not possible, for a very simple fact, which we expose with a question: what has Ilaria Borletti Buitoni done concretely, in one year, since she has held the position of undersecretary? Almost nothing. We will remember her mostly for saying that"in Italy we stopped eating well a long time ago," for her disconcerting statements about cultural professionals and for her querelle with Tomaso Montanari. And of substance? Practically nothing. On the other hand, she has written a lot: she has been hammering us for a year now with the litany of theentry of private individuals into the management of public assets.

Which, of course, is a concept that should not be demonized out of hand. Italy’s problem, however, consists in the fact that, in this matter, we live in the most complete anomie and lack of rules: this is why every time Ilaria Borletti Buitoni speaks on the subject, she sees barricades rise against her. The problem then is not so much the phantom prejudices against private individuals. The problem lies in the fact that so far in Italy private individuals have often done with public property what they wanted, in defiance of respect and common sense: the Ponte Vecchio affair in Florence is the most exemplary. What is surprising, however, is the fact that, as undersecretary for cultural heritage and who, moreover, has a very specific issue at heart, Ilaria Borletti Buitoni should have done her best to see to it that measures were issued, first of all, to set precise rules, and then to incentivize private intervention in public heritage, but none of this has been done.

But, as mentioned earlier, on the other hand, she wrote a lot: an impressive average of almost a post a day--almost a professional blogger. Here are some of Ilaria Borletti Buitoni’s wishes: “we need a real and substantial reversal of the trend, which leads to consider central the activity of protection and enhancement of the national heritage for the development of the country” (May 10, 2013). “I hope for a concrete collaboration between the Minister and me to start a path that I fully share” (May 24). “A plan is needed immediately to repair the state of profound disrepair in which one of the most important cultural assets of our country finds itself” (discussing the Royal Palace of Caserta, June 10, 2013). “Urgent intervention is needed from the institutions, and also from the Ministry of Cultural Heritage, which will take up the appeal and the request of directors, actors and operators in the sector to avert a risk that would hit a sector already heavily penalized by the crisis” (June 11, 2013). “Only a relationship with the third sector and the private sector that also incentivizes new resources necessary for the maintenance of our cultural heritage and cultural activities, as well as a strong strategy that places this ministry among those strategic for the development of the country, can lead to widespread growth in the territory that also translates into increased employment” (June 20, 2013). “It is necessary to restart with the commitment of all, but really all Ministry, Government, Trade Unions, Institutions, Superintendencies from the maintenance and protection of our cultural heritage to then restart tourism and promotion, especially abroad” (July 3, 2013). “I hope and hope that the launch from 2014 of the Italian Capital of Culture on an annual basis announced today by President Letta can be a driving force for development” (Nov. 21, 2013).

Etcetera et cetera, but one could go on and on and draw only from the blog (that is, without counting the countless interviews that Ilaria Borletti Buitoni has given here and there). The question that, at this point, anyone would like to ask the lady of wishes is, “kind Undersecretary, what have you done in a year of everything you wished for?” Nothing, because on Feb. 24 we are still talking about the role of the ministry that “must be central to the government’s agenda,” which is more or less the same words used on May 10: in between, the void. Even on the topic dearest to Ilaria Borletti Buitoni, the entry of private individuals into the public sector, we are still far from not the finish line, but even the starting ribbons. One would not otherwise explain the most savory of Ilaria Borletti Buitoni’s latest blog posts, the one of February 17 titled That ideological battle against “private individuals” that hurts the country, where the undersecretary laments the presence of “ideological and bureaucratic barriers” that would hinder the intervention of private individuals in the management of heritage. Barriers, of course, “that we must tear down for the sake of our cultural heritage and for the future of tourism in our country. And we must do it immediately.” But, dear undersecretary, you have had almost a year to do so!

Not content with that, Ilaria Borletti Buitoni cites two articles that should lend support to what she claimed in her post. One signed by Caterina Soffici, who in Fatto Quotidiano highlights the differences between England and Italy in renting museum locations for private events. It is worth pointing out that the British are not better than us because they rent and we don’t, since we also rent (even if we do it very badly, sometimes preventing the public’s enjoyment of the asset, and not to mention that there is often much confusion about revenues): the British are better than us because they impose clear and strict rules. The article mentions Somerset House, where venues are rented for private events, but the management establishes very precise rules: even florists must be part of the roster of those approved by Somerset House in order to decorate rooms. A clarity that is completely lacking in Italy. The other article, a lousy editorial by Pigi Battista (we didn’t have enough of his political analyses, so we rightly have to put up with him as a cultural heritage “specialist” as well), in which the very nice Corriere all-rounder says that “in Italy there is a scandal if an event, and without affecting its artistic treasures and architecture, occupies the environment of the Galleria Borghese in Rome or if a gala evening profits a hundred thousand euros for the City of Florence that has rented Ponte Vecchio for one evening.” Yeah, too bad that perhaps the good Pigi is not aware of the fact that the “harmless” but above all tawdry festivity at the Galleria Borghese in reality would have damaged the tufa foundations of the piazzale of the Galleria (incidentally: Ilaria Borletti Buitoni also seems to have attended the dinner), and that of the hundred thousand euros of which he speaks there is no trace, so before coming out with certain externals, it would be at least the case to inform oneself. But even if what is written corresponds to the truth, the fact remains that a piece of the city has been taken away from the citizenry for several hours.

All this is to show that after almost a year, during which we should have seen concrete results as a result of the “action” of Undersecretary Borletti Buitoni, we are still discussing issues that by now should have not say been resolved, but at least be on a good track. And with such a team, with Franceschini, Barracciu and Borletti Buitoni at the helm of the Ministry, it is quite obvious to think that once again common sense has given way to reason of state. And speaking of reason of state: there is talk these hours of a reshuffle at the Municipality of Rome, and there are rumors that the chair of culture alderman could go to Michela De Biase, Dario Franceschini’s fiance. That the management of culture in Italy, in addition to a matter of party balance, is also becoming a matter of family balance?