The first G20 Culture Ministers' Meeting is underway in Rome at the Palazzo Barberini, home to Italy's collection of ancient art.
The opening event was held in a unique and spectacular setting on Thursday evening: the arena of the Colosseum.
Culture ministers from 20 of the world's largest economies together with 40 high-level cultural delegations arrived to the sound of music being played by the band of Italy's Carabinieri.
Culture Minister Dario Franceschini and the Director General of UNESCO France's Audrey Azoulay greeted the representatives of the attending delegations, ahead of Friday's series of meetings.
"We meet at a crucial time: the pandemic has made our interdependence even more evident, and the need for countries to work together: because global problems require global answers. At the same time the pandemic has made us understand how much culture is the lymph of our lives," Franceschini said in his opening speech.
"Empty squares, shuttered museums, cinemas, theatres and libraries have made our cities sad and disconnected. For this reason, we now know that culture will be the key to restarting, the engine of an innovative, sustainable and balanced growth," Franchescini added.
Prime Minister Mario Draghi also attended the opening ceremony also saying that "support to culture is crucial for the relaunching of the country". He expressed pride in the fact this first G20 Culture Ministers' Meeting was being held in Italy. "History and beauty are an integral part of being Italian. When the world looks at us, they see above all art, music and literature". Draghi thanked all those who work in Italian theatres, libraries and museums "because the rediscovery of the past is a necessary condition for the creation of the future".
The prime minister cited the record number of 58 sites in Italy are included in UNESCO World Heritage List and said, "A few days ago, joking with Minister Franceschini, I said the entire country should be considered a UNESCO site".
On the eve of the G-20 culture meeting, Bologna's extensive medieval porticoes, dating back to the 13th century, as well as Piazzale Michelangelo and the Abbey of San Miniato al Monte in Florence were added to the prestigious list.
Earlier this month the north eastern city of Padua, noted for its early 14th-century Giotto frescoes in the Scrovegni Chapel, and Montecatini Terme, a well-preserved thermal spa town in Tuscany. "An extraordinary result", commented Franceschini with satisfaction.
Discussions at Friday's meetings will focus on protecting cultural heritage against risks, including natural disasters, environmental degradation and climate change, deliberate destruction and looting, and illicit trafficking in works of art. Promotion of culture will also be addressed using digital and technological transformation and the training of young people.