It’s David vs. tourist in Florence


Florence has a love-hate relationship with tourists. Its economy utterly depends on tourists. At the same time, little Florence is overwhelmed by them and knows the crowds will only thicken as Asians get wealthier and travel to this renaissance jewel of a city. The thought of millions of new tourists clogging the streets, galleries and museums is too much for Paolo Cocchi, Tuscany’s cultural chief. His solution: Make central Florence less of a tourist destination by removing Michelangelo’s David from the Accademia, the statue’s home since 1873.

At first, the idea of banishing Michelangelo’s masterpiece to the suburbs – specifically to the future location of the Maggio Florentino festival theatre on the outskirts of town – was treated as a bad joke. The head of the city’s museums, Cristina Acidini, said “such a landmark of world art can’t just be used to aid the upgrade of an outlying district.” She also noted that the city had just spent millions of euros cleaning the David, which is more fragile than it appears because the marble in the ankles of the statue has deteriorated. A special anti-pollution system was installed to protect the statue, which was presented to the Florentine public in 1504. Jets of air form a protective barrier around the statue, protecting it from dust and particles that can corrode its surface.

But the idea is gaining momentum. Florence’s cultural committee has agreed to study the idea of shipping the David to the boonies to relieve tourist pressure on the downtown core in general and the Accademia in particular. The sidewalk where the tourists line up to get into the Accademia is a mere 45-centimetres wide, creating a permanent bottleneck.

Of course, this being Italy, the proposal will be studied for several years, and dropped and revived several times. Designing and constructing its new home – if there is to be one – will take several more years. The point being, you won’t have to rush to see the statue in its current location. Just plan your visit for the coldest, rainiest day in the winter, when the line-up to get in can take a mere hour or two instead of the better part of a day. The beseiged Accademia alone gets 1.3-million tourists a year.