Since many years Italy has enacted a very strict legislation to protect its national cultural property and is also a party to several multilateral agreements, in order to obtain and give protection and cooperation at the international level.
Italy is a State party to almost all the international conventions on the protection of cultural heritage promoted by UNESCO and of many of those prepared by the Council of Europe (the European cultural convention (1954), the European convention on the protection of the archaeological heritage (1969), the Convention for the protection of the architectural heritage of Europe (1985, revised in 1992), the Landscape Convention (2003) ).
The International law rules contained in the above mentioned conventions, all of which are in force for Italy, introduced a special legislation into the Italian legal order.
This special legislation was originally dedicated only to the protection of cultural property and museums in time of war and then extended to peace time. It overlapped the existing domestic legislation with relevant consequences. It suffices to say that the very concept of “cultural property” was initially introduced in International Law and eventually adopted by Italian national law, thus posing the question of its definition. A definition according to Italian Law is now contained in art. 10 of the Code of Cultural Property and the Landscape.
This is a new, all encompassing codification which was enacted in 2004. The Codice dei beni culturali e del paessaggio- Legislative Decree no. 42/ 2004 (Code of Cultural Property and the Landscape) and its following integrations and amendments, modified and abrogated the pre-existing legislation (namely Law no. 1089 of 1939 and the Testo Unico in materia di beni culturali-Legislative Decree no. 490/99).