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Cecilie Hollberg (l.(in April 2023)

Photo: Guido Cozzi / AP

Their intentions may well have been respectable. There was clearly room for improvement only in the choice of words. Now the German director of the famous Galleria dell'Accademia museum, Cecilie Hollberg, has gotten herself into considerable trouble. She had called Florence a “prostitute.”

Specifically, Hollberg said: "Once a city has become a prostitute, it is difficult for it to become a virgin again." According to media reports, the statement was made to journalists on Monday with a view to mass tourism in the Italian city.

"Florence is very beautiful, and I would like it to go back to its residents and not be crushed by tourism," said Hollberg, whose museum, among other things, exhibits the world-famous David sculpture by the Renaissance artist Michelangelo, according to the newspaper »La Repubblica« . But it is "already too late": without an "absolute" brake on tourist numbers, she sees "no hope."

In a statement from the Galleria dell'Accademia, the director, who was appointed to head the museum in 2015, later apologized for her choice of words. She used the “wrong words” about “a city that I love.” She wanted to say that Florence must become a role model for responsible tourism.

Minister criticizes – ex-prime minister too

However, the Italian Minister of Culture Gennaro Sangiuliano criticized the German historian's statements as "serious and offensive" and announced that he would consider "appropriate" measures. The deputy mayor of Florence, Alessia Bettini, also sharply criticized Hollberg. If Florence is a prostitute, the question arises as to whether the city's residents are "children of a prostitute" and tourists are "customers of a prostitute."

Former Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi - once mayor of Florence - said the museum director must apologize or "resign." At the same time, there is an awareness in Italy of the problems of a massive influx of tourists, which not only affects Florence but also other cities. This is particularly true for Venice.