Italy is taking part, together with other 49 European States in the 2011 European Heritage Days that will take place in our country on 24th and 25th September, with the wellestablished slogan "Italy – Treasure of Europe". Since its founding in 1954, this event has been widely followed and much appreciated by the public as it has provided an opportunity to become acquainted with the extraordinary European cultural heritage. Over the years, the event has become of such importance that in 1999 the European Council and the European Commission made it a mutual undertaking, with the intent to strengthen and favour dialogue and cultural exchange with the objective of increasing public awareness with respect to the great wealth that cultural diversity generates within Europe. It is therefore necessary to reaffirm, together with the European countries, common cultural and historical roots, fundamental for the development of common strategies and projects for the protection and safeguarding and for the acquiring and passing on to future generations, even in moments of crisis, of the knowledge of the great cultural heritage of our country and that of the whole of Europe. The recent inscription of two new Italian sites to UNESCO's World Heritage List - "Longobards in Italy - Places of the power"and "Prehistoric Pile dwellings around the Alps", enters into the spirit of the European Days. The series of prehistoric pile-dwelling (or stilt house) settlements in and around the Alps, comprising 111 villages, extending into the territory of 7 countries: Switzerland, Austria, France, Italy, Germany and Slovenia, testifies the existence of a strong common link between old continent traditions. MiBAC will be participating in this grand European festival with both its central and territorial institutions which, as well as organising events for the occasion, will open free of charge to the public, all State heritage sites including those of archaeological, artistic, historical, architectural, archival, cinematographic, theatrical and musical interest. In synergy with MiBAC, the Ministry of Education, Universities and Research, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with the Italian Cultural Institutions Abroad, the autonomous Regions and Provinces and public and private Communal and Cultural Institutions, will take part in the event giving added value to the initiative by opening art sites free of charge and organising events. With the free entry to art sites and the organisation of numerous events, the public will be able to freely discover or rediscover both known and less well-known museums, monuments or archaeological sites, offering the opportunity to reflect on the foundations of our history. It is necessary, however, to reinforce communications so that this becomes an opportunity for the citizens of each European State to find out about the cultural heritage of other European countries, appreciate differences, embrace similarities and understand in this way, the sense of a common Europe which cannot exist as such without the awareness of common ideas, values and sentiments. During these "Days" the entire European artistic and cultural heritage will be open to the World.

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