Italy’s top cultural institutions are happily welcoming back visitors after months of online-only events, but digital skills learned during the pandemic are being repurposed into an innovative national streaming service.
The new “ITsART” (Italy is art) platform, launched on Tuesday in the spectacular surroundings of the Colosseum in Rome, will offer a mix of live and on demand events, from plays, concerts and films to virtual tours of museums and monuments.
Institutions from Milan’s Scala theatre to the Pompeii archaeological park are among those involved in the scheme, backed by about €19 million ($21 million) from the Italian government.
“Our aim was to provide a common platform that can reach a growing audience of consumers of Italian art and culture around the world, while importantly, supporting the performing and visual arts sector,” said the project’s director general, Guido Casali.
A beta version of the service has been running in Italy and Britain since May, but is now open to all the countries in the EU, accessible on the official site and an app.
Italy’s cultural treasures, coast, lakes and mountains made it the world’s fifth-most visited destination before the coronavirus pandemic hit in early 2020.
Deprived of their public, as elsewhere, many museums and institutions developed online offerings for visitors stuck at home, including the Uffizi galleries in Florence, and Pompeii.
“I made little videos, short videos just talking about the site or what we were doing, how it was being there without visitors . . . and it had such great feedback,” said Gabriel Zuchtriegel, the director of Pompeii.
He was not keen on using existing commercial platforms, “where you as a user are not really a client, you’re a product, they’re selling commercials . . . so I thought it would be great to develop our own platform”.
ITsArt, which already has more than 100,000 registered users, is free to access although there is some pay-per-view content.
It is divided into three sections: “Stage”, with concerts for example at the Scala; “Sites”, with virtual visits including of iconic monuments and “Stories” with documentaries and films such as Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1987 The Last Emperor.