The paper analyses the evolution and composition of cultural consumption in Italy in view of evaluating cultural policy aimed at access to the arts. The paper attempts at drawing a wider scenario of cultural habits in Italy, through critical interpretation of the figures published by the National Institute of Statistics (ISTAT). Such figures actually suggest a differentiated behaviour on the part of consumers, according to both their socio-demographic profiles (age, education, job position and residence) and the field of interest (museums and exhibitions, drama, opera and music, cinema). Figures are also examined in a diachronic perspective. In such a respect, public action may prove crucial in order for access to be granted to a wide audience: cultural consumption should be considered a relevant feature of citizens' «capabilities».