Mass tourism has transformed Florence into a “prostitute,” the director of one of the city’s major museums said Monday, sparking indignation from politicians, including the Italian Minister of Culture. “Once a city prostitutes itself, it is difficult for it to become virgin again,” Cecilie Hollberg, director of the Accademia Gallery which houses Michelangelo's statue of David, told reporters on the sidelines of the an event.
“Florence is very beautiful and I would like it to return to its citizens and not be crushed by tourism,” added the German historian, deploring the streets colonized by souvenir shops. But “it is already too late”, she added, according to the daily La Repubblica, warning that if we did not put a brake on the number, she saw “no more hope”.
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 be the witness, for all of Italy, of an increasingly sustainable tourism and not of mass tourism,” she said.
But Culture Minister Gennaro Sangiuliano said his comments were “serious and offensive” for Florence and the whole of Italy, and threatened action, saying he would “evaluate all appropriate measures » within the framework of current legislation.
Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni's nationalist government has been accused of seeking to promote more Italians to top cultural positions, as well as more people sympathetic to its right-wing views. Last year, ministers approved a change that requires opera conductors to leave their posts when they reach the age of 70, a move widely seen as a way to keep some foreigners out of office.
Florence Deputy Mayor Alessia Bettini also opposed Cecilie Hollberg by stating that if the city were a prostitute, “would Florentines be the children of a prostitute and tourists the clients of a prostitute?” . Former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, a senator from Florence, said Mr Hollberg “should apologize or resign”.
Other officials in Italy have expressed concern about the impact of overtourism, particularly in cities like Florence - where the historic center is crowded for much of the year - and Venice. After UNESCO warned of the risk of losing its precious world heritage status, Venice announced last year its intention to test a ticketing system to try to control the number of visitors, starting from month of April.