the Italian cities competing to be European Capital of Culture in 2019
Rome - XINHUA
Matera, an art city in southern Italy, was recommended on Friday to become European Culture Capital 2019, local reports said.
Italian Culture Minister Dario Franceschini made the announcement after being informed by the selection panel of experts who recommended that Matera should be awarded the title.
The formal designation of Matera by the Council of Ministers of the European Union (EU) is expected to take place next year.
The city is internationally well-known for its UNESCO-listed City of Stone.
"The designation of Matera is an example of civilization and rebirth that comes to Europe from Matera and the whole of the south of Italy," Matera Mayor Salvatore Adduce was quoted as saying by local media.
Androulla Vassiliou, the European commissioner responsible for culture, said the competition for the title in Italy was one of the strongest ever, with 21 initial contenders - including Ravenna, Siena and Cagliari - narrowed down to six finalists.
"I am confident that Matera will attract more visitors from Europe and all over the world to discover the city, its history and the cultural diversity which is one of strengths of our continent," she said in a statement published on the EU's website.
The selection of the European Culture Capital has a pre-selection round, following which a shortlist of candidate cities is drawn up, and a final selection round nine months later.
Each year, cities chosen as European Capitals of Culture provide living proof of the richness and diversity of European cultures.
Bulgaria and Italy are the two EU member states which will share the title in 2019. The final selection in Bulgaria took place in September, with the panel recommending that Plovdiv should be awarded the title.
Started in 1985, more than 40 cities have been designated European Capitals of Culture, and the initiative has become one of the most prestigious and high-profile cultural events in Europe.