June 27, 2016
You feel charmed and angry at the same time when visiting Venaria Royal Palace, in the outskirts of Turin, before and after it was renovated. The first sensation you experience is that you are looking at a wonder. Indeed, reclaiming this masterpiece, which was deteriorated by people rather than time, was a wonder. What is even more extraordinary is that it happened in Italy.
This is a repost of Il miracolo di Venaria con i fondi della Ue, originally published in Italian on the sole24ore blog by Giuseppe Chiellino (@chigiu) and submitted to the Europe in My Region 2016 blogging competition.
Because Italians are used to neglecting or even forgetting their treasures. So ‘we can’ in Italy, too! Nevertheless, you are urged to wonder: “why just here?” In how many further Italian places could the Venaria pattern be replicated? Starting from Pompei, where something is getting in motion anyway.
What is the Venaria pattern? How could the Italian State and Piedmont Regional Administrations turn these old ruins (formerly used as a barrack for some 200 years) into the first tourist attraction in Piedmont, as well as the fifth one in Italy after the Coliseum, the Uffizi Gallery, Venice and Pompei?
It is rumoured that Mr. Walter Veltroni, while campaigning for general elections in 1996 and holding an elector’s meeting in this town, launched the idea of reclaiming the Royal Palace. Some days later, in a TV show, he committed to accomplishing it if he had a majority. Mr. Ghigo, the Regional Administration President belonging to the opposite political wing, could not speak in that show. Nevertheless, he got in touch with the Cultural Heritage Minister to-be on the day after; he committed to allotting all the EU resources for Piedmont in that programming period to renovate the Savoy Royal Hunting House. A bipartisan commitment (it seldom happens with respect to matters where power and influence sharing are not at the heart) and a rich EU funds package (mobilising an equal amount of
national resources) caused the reclamation to start with a strong coverage and without hurdles. Mr. Alberto Vannelli – Royal Palace Management Partnership director and Regional Cultural Heritage Director at that time – stated jesting (but not excessively):”we boast of a record that can’t be taken for granted. We have been issuing tenders and calls for 15 years without anybody suing us before the RAC”.
Yet, the remaining Piedmont Provincial Administrations and municipalities were unhappy with the prospect of channelling all the EU funds for the seven years to come into the Royal Palace. This has worked and continues to work today.. Thanks to continuity, too: as highlighted in the Cohesion & Development Department, Mr. Vannelli has been transforming the Venaria Royal Palace into his mission for fifteen years. Such continuity would be useful in Pompei, for instance. Nowadays, the Royal Palace yearly costs total about 15 million EUR, while the revenue it yields through entry tickets, events, exhibitions, concerts and fashion shows totals about 7.5 million EUR.
What is charming in the history of this reclamation is not just comparing ‘before’ and ‘after’. The ability to make (good) use of all the available resources, especially EU funds, is the most striking element. Indeed, nearly one million tourists a year best express the ‘structural’ goal of these funds. A driving force having a positive impact on economy in Piedmont Capital City, which Venaria is nearly a town section of. This history involves an important lesson about using EU funds: Italy has the second place among their beneficiaries but is their worst user (after Romania). A lesson which the Italian Government and the Regional Administrations – now drafting the 2014-2020 Operational Programmes – could usefully take into account. Instead of scattering the resources across hundreds of micro-actions – that are often impossible to manage and whose efficacy is even more difficult to assess – it could be worth trying to find out just a few actions and ultimately complete them. This is not just to make Cohesion Policy more visible, but also to give it its real sense, i.e. boosting ‘structural’ development and growth in line with the goals that all Member States (including Italy) defined, instead of randomly sprinkling monies. Former European Commission President Barroso stated that “The problem in Italy doesn’t lie with having more monies to spend, but rather with being able to well-spend what the country gets”. This is not the whole truth, but gets close to it.
EXPENDITURE AND EFFECTS
Overall costs of renovation works
200 million EUR were spent from 1997 to 2013 to recover and renovate the building.
contributed from the EU Structural Funds
More than half of the resources used to renovate the building and its gardens comes from the EU institutions through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF)
700 new jobs
Employment downturn curbed
About 700 new jobs are estimated to have been created by tourists visiting the Royal Palace in a territory being marked by strong de-industrialisation. They include seasonal employees, outsourced tasks and connected industries. The connected industries have also experienced growth thanks to the newly opened Palace. Indeed, the 900,000 visitors coming annually foster business for local hotels & restaurants.