"An attempt to open up the Czech Republics rich culture to a new audience" this is how director Miloslav Hirsch has described the aim of the new Czech Cultural Institute.

The institute will offer a chance to learn more about the rich history of the nation, including how it was shaped dramatically by two world wars, and the diverse culture that arose out of this. Hirsch says: "Its important to promote our culture, commerce and tourism, but especially culture. Were in the ideal place to do this in Rome, where there is healthy competition among the institutes."

This is Hirschs second spell in Italy; he worked at the Czech Republic consulate for four years before returning to Prague in 2000. He adds: "Weve had a great reaction in Rome so far and were looking forward to sharing our culture with people in the city."

The official inauguration of the centre, in Via Costabella near the Lungotevere della Vittoria, takes place on 18 May. Events include the opening of an exhibition, "Bohemian Design and Architecture in Italian villages 1820-1908", which runs until 17 June. The institute has also organised a presentation in association with the faculty of political science of Universit di Roma Tre at Via Segre 4 (Ostiense) on Czech history in the 19th and 20th centuries, on 24 May (10.00).