(Florence) Finally! After 77 days of closure due to a pandemic, the Uffizi Museum in Florence, famous for its masterpieces by Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and Raphael, reopened its doors Thursday morning with great fanfare.
In the presence in particular of the mayor of Florence Dario Nardella, the two heavy carved wooden doors creaked on their hinges. Behind the cords where tourists usually crowd, the first visitors, a little lost, quietly await their sesame.
Inside the museum, William, a 28-year-old Irish artist who lives in Florence, does not hide his joy at the breathtaking view of the Ponte Vecchio: “It’s a relief after the stress of having to spend two months locked up at home ”.
In almost empty rooms, “we just need to add armchairs so that we can enjoy them even more,” he jokes, laughing. “For me it’s good, but for the culture and the Italians, no! Florence needs to see tourists coming back from America and the rest of Europe. To see the crowd in museums again means that society is functioning again, ”said the slender young man.
A little further on, Michele Diana and Anna Ghelardini, two Florentines bundled up in their twenties greet “the security measures, fair and appropriate, ultimately the same that are found everywhere: temperature control, disinfectant gel …”
“I had never been here”, confesses Michele, who let herself be carried away by her friend Anna, who wanted to see the Tondo Doni, a sumptuous painting by Michelangelo representing the Holy Family: “the most beautiful of all”, she exclaims.
The director of the Uffizi, the German Eike Schmidt, is visibly relieved: “It is really time to reopen, to show these remarkable works of art which belong to all of humanity”, he confides during of an interview with AFP.
Because of COVID-19, the Uffizi, showcase of the Italian Renaissance, had to face “the longest closure since World War II”, he recalls, adjusting his red mask.
“A small step”
And while “we continue our programming online on our site and on social media,” “the opportunity to see these works in person is simply unique, so we encourage all who can to come.” “Right now, you have to be in Tuscany, because the borders between the Italian regions are still closed,” he explains.
In fact, for this first day of opening, the handful of visitors present are assailed with questions by the swarm of journalists who came to cover the event. “That’s enough, let us admire these works in peace”, launches an Italian visitor in ecstasy in front of Spring by Botticelli.
COVID-19, which has claimed more than 83,000 lives in Italy, remains in everyone’s mind: “Visitors must wear a mask, like me! And respect social distancing, ”Mr. Schmidt hastens to recall.
The reopening started on Thursday will also be gradual. “At the moment, we are only open from Tuesday to Friday, but we hope that very soon the contagion curve will go down and that we can reopen to visitors from all over Europe, as well as on weekends”, wants to hope Eike Schmidt.
Due to the pandemic, “we had a lot less visitors last year […] Our finances were also affected, but we received funds from the government to compensate for the months of closure ”. According to a source inside the museum, the revenue losses amount to around four million euros per month of closure, a deadweight loss for the museum which had to close during the first containment and reopened on June 3 before falling to the curtain again on November 5th.
On Thursday, the Uffizi welcomed a total of no less than 776 visitors, half of whom were under 25.
“The reopening of museums is designed primarily for locals in order to give them the opportunity to safely enjoy their cultural heritage. It’s a small step, a sign of reopening, ”Minister of Culture Dario Franceschini explained earlier this week.
Besides the Uffizi, other emblematic cultural places have reopened to the public, such as the famous archaeological site of Pompeii.