The Italian Almanac

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Art Train

Titian, Caravaggio and Tintoretto are among the Italian masters taking a 3,000-km rail trip to cities across the country this month on a specially fitted train that doubles as a mobile art gallery. Sponsored by national rail company Ferrovie dello Stato, the 'art train' contains 130 works from private collections chosen by curators to give an overview of 500 years of Italian painting - from the 16th century to contemporary street art.

The train set off from Rome's Termini Station and will visit 22 cities during its 40-day voyage, pulling in at stations for a day or two so that people can jump aboard and appreciate the works on show. Explaining the philosophy behind the initiative, curator-in-chief Antonio Maria Pivetta said that since only 10% of Italians abitually visit galleries, museums and exhibitions, "art must go to meet the people".

The train will travel as far south as Siracusa on the coast of Sicily and as far north as Bergamo in Lombardy before arriving at its final destination, Milan's Porta Garibaldi Station, on 10 November. Most of the cities on the itinerary are in central and southern Italy, where people live furthest away from large museums and galleries with important collections. "The itinerant museum will visit many of the cities that are often geographically penalized from taking part in major cultural events and will take art directly to the heart of the regions," Pivetta said.

There is no charge to board the train, and Pivetta hopes that low-wage families who would not usually visit museums and galleries because of entry costs will be among those taking advantage of the project. The train is made up of six carriages, each focusing on a separate period and curated by a different expert.

This is the second year running that the art train has made a trip around Italy, although last year only works from the past 50 years were on display. Nevertheless, 61,000 people climbed on to take a look, making the art train the fourth most popular museum in Italy that month.