The main objective of the present paper is to evaluate opportunities and limitations of impact studies in the cultural domain, according to two studies commissioned to the authors by two new performing arts festivals in Milan-Turin and in Naples. MITO SettembreMusica (MITO) took place in September 2007 and was promoted and produced by the Associazione per il Festival Internazionale della Musica di Milano and the Fondazione per le Attività Musicali di Torino. Napoli Teatro Festival Italia (NTFI) was instead organised in June 2008 by the Fondazione Campania dei Festival. The cases show that a mere economic impact study might be misleading in evaluating the complex interaction between festival, artistic field and urban context: a multi-dimensional approach seems to address more effectively objectives and values of such festivals. The monitoring of such events should not be only a marketing exercise but a strategic companion for cultural organisations.