Academy Gallery director compares Florence to a 39prostitute39 sparking outrage

Academy Gallery director compares Florence to a 'prostitute', sparking outrage in Italy

From Le Figaro with AFP

Published 10 hours ago, updated 18 minutes ago

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“Once a city prostitutes itself, it is difficult for it to become virginal again,” Cecilie Hollberg, patron of the museum that houses Michelangelo's statue of David, told the press on the sidelines of an event. According to Italian Culture Minister Gennaro Sangiuliano, comments are considered “serious and offensive.”

Mass tourism has turned Florence into a “prostitute,” the director of one of the city's largest museums said on Monday, sparking outrage from political leaders including Italy's culture minister. “Once a city prostitutes itself, it is difficult for it to become virginal again,” Cecilie Hollberg, director of the Accademia Gallery, which houses Michelangelo's Statue of David, told reporters on the sidelines of the event.

“Florence is very beautiful and I want it to return to its citizens and not be overwhelmed by tourism,” the German historian added, deploring the streets populated by souvenir shops. But “it’s already too late,” she added, according to daily La Repubblica, warning that she “sees no hope” if we don’t slow the numbers.

The Academy Gallery later released a statement in which Ms. Hollberg apologized for using “inappropriate words” about a city she loves. “What I wanted to say is that Florence must witness, for all of Italy, increasingly sustainable tourism and not mass tourism,” she said.

But Culture Minister Gennaro Sangiuliano said his comments were “serious and offensive” to Florence and all of Italy and threatened action, saying he would consider “all appropriate measures” under current legislation.

Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni's nationalist government has been accused of wanting to promote more Italians to top cultural positions and attract more people sympathetic to her right-wing views. Last year ministers agreed to a change requiring opera conductors to resign when they reach the age of 70. The move is widely seen as a way to keep some foreigners out of office.

Florence's deputy mayor, Alessia Bettini, also took issue with Cecilie Hollberg, saying that if the city were a prostitute, “would Florentines be the children of a prostitute and tourists the customers of a prostitute?” Former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, a senator from Florence said Ms. Hollberg “should apologize or resign.”

Other officials in Italy expressed concern about the impact of overtourism, particularly in cities like Florence – where the historic center is crowded most of the year – and Venice. After UNESCO warned of the risk of losing its prized world heritage status, Venice last year announced its intention to test a ticketing system from April to control the number of visitors.