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US returns €60 million worth of looted antiquities to Italy

Italy and US collaborate to repatriate stolen artefacts.

Some 600 antiquities stolen from Italy and returned with the help of authorities in the US went on display in Rome on Tuesday in a repatriation valued at around €60 million.

The treasures, which had been smuggled out of Italy and sold illicitly in the US, were presented at the headquarters of the Central Institute for Restoration.

The artefacts, ranging from statues and vases to paintings and bronzes, include archaeological pieces dating from between the ninth century BC and the second century AD, many of which were stolen by tombaroli (tomb raiders) in central-southern Italy.

In addition to archaeological sites, the culture ministry said the repatriated works of art were stolen from churches, museums and private homes before being trafficked out of Italy to the US.

The artefacts were recovered thanks to the efforts of Italy's Carabinieri art squad - the Command for the Protection of Cultural Heritage (TPC) together with the New York County district attorney's office and the US Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Hailing the work of the Carabinieri and US authorities, Italy's culture minister Gennaro Sangiuliano said: "Today is a beautiful day for the nation's cultural heritage", adding that the return of the artefacts would "make it possible to heal many wounds that have opened over the years in the areas where they were stolen, depriving the communities of important pieces of their identity."

"The United States is strongly committed to the protection and preservation of cultural heritage throughout the world" - the US ambassador to Italy, Jack Markell, stated - "Since 2001, the United States has fulfilled a bilateral agreement with Italy to combat antiquities trafficking, and together we continue to work to protect, preserve, and promote culture and the arts."

In 2022 Italy opened a new museum showcasing ancient artefacts looted from Italian archaeological sites and trafficked abroad before being rescued by art police.

The Museo dell'Arte Salvata (Museum of Rescued Art) is housed in the Octagonal Hall at the Baths of Diocletian, part of the National Roman Museum network in Rome.

For more details on the latest repatriated works of art see the Italian culture ministry website.

Photo Ministero della Cultura.

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Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia
Marymount - International School Rome