Palermo Italian culture capital
Premier Paolo Gentiloni and Culture Minister Dario Franceschini kicked off Palermo's year as Italian Culture Capital. Speaking to local dignitaries including Mayor Leoluca Orlando and Sicily Governor Nello Musumeci, Gentiloni said Palermo was "changing" after years of being depicted via "stereotypes".
"This is a chance to say thank you Palermo, the Italians are proud of this city," the premier said.
He said a major new library of Islamic studies would be set up with government funds and named after famed late Florence mayor Giorgio La Pira.
Franceschini said Palermo would "remain the capital of dialogue".
Orlando said there would be "thousands of initiatives" during the year and said Palermo was "an example of tolerance and welcome".
Over 780 events are planned and more are expected to be added.
He added that "Palermo excellence" would be put to the test.
Orlando noted "one of the characteristic elements is that the peripheries will be more involved than the centre. We want to abolish the term 'peripheries'. " Tourist visits to the Sicilian capital, which is already one of Italy's most popular destinations, are expected to be boosted considerably by the slew of cultural events planned.
Some of the highlights include the return of Giovanni Boldini's 'Donna Franca Florio, an iconic painting of the Belle Epoque, a large exhibition on Antonello da Messina and Manifesta 12, one of the largest European travelling shows, as well as a series of performances, meetings, music, art and theater.
The logo for the city, long a cradle of culture in the Mediterranean basin, was designed by the 22-year-old fine arts student Sabrina and features the 'P' of Palermo in four languages: Phoenician, Hebrew, Arabic and Greek. The heart of the initiatives will be at Palazzo Sant-Elia, with photos by Spencer Tunick and Robert Capa, a conference on Mediterranean philosophies, a retrospective on Japanese artist Shozo Shimamoto. Palermo was chosen over the other finalist cities of Alghero, Aquileia, Comacchio, Ercolano (Herculaneum), Montebelluna, Recanati, Settimo Torinese, Trento and a group of northern Sicilian towns. "We've all won," said Mayor Orlando when the announcement was made last year. "The most significant cultural asset we uphold is the culture of welcome." The jury's citation said that "the candidacy is backed by an original project, of high cultural value, great humanitarian scope, strongly and generously aimed at inclusion, permanent training, the creation of capacity and citizenship, without neglecting the valorisation of the heritage and contemporary artistic production".