You’ve heard of catfishing, you’ve cringed at dogfishing, now, welcome to ‘tourist fishing.’
Though the first two concepts are dishonest dating strategies, the third – what we’re dubbing ‘tourist fishing’ – is Italy’s new approach to combatting overtourism in its big city hubs.
It’s also not dishonest, just smart.
How does it work? The idea is to remove individual pieces of art from galleries like Florence’s Uffizi (which hosts such masterpieces as Botticelli’s ‘The Birth Of Venus‘ and Parmigianino’s ‘Madonna with the Long Neck‘) and place them in regional towns that have a historical link to them.
This has previously been done on a special occasion basis (in 2019, a landscape drawing by Leonardo da Vinci was sent to the artist’s hometown of Vinci, in the 500th anniversary year of his death). The idea now is to do the same thing but more broadly (and permanently).
The initiative reponds to two things. One: the absurd number of visitors that had taken to trampling through cities like Florence, Venice and Rome pre-COVID-19, many of whom misbehaved, forcing authorities to bring in all sorts of new laws to cope with the influx.
Two: the opportunity, now things are quieter, to rebuild in a way that makes Italy better equipped to cope with tourism – and a better place to visit – when travel really does get back to normal. This is something experts have predicted will happen around 2024.
The initiative also runs alongside the ‘Albergo Diffuso’ concept of scattered hotels, which is like a state-run Airbnb scheme, where you stay in historical buildings in deep Tuscany (say), rather than a bright loft above a Byron Bay cafe…
In a bid to reduce the 10-hour long queues in the city’s museums and art galleries, and stop true art lovers from being inconvenienced by hedonistic tourists rushing to take selfies with inappropriate parts of ‘well sculpted’ anatomies, the director of Florence’s Uffizi wants to divert tourists away from Florence.
Introducing ‘Uffizi Diffuzi.’
“In this project, artworks stored in the Uffizi’s deposit will be put on show throughout the surrounding area of Tuscany, turning Italy’s most famous region into one big ‘scattered’ museum,” CNN Travel reports.
Uffizi director Eike Schmidt told CNN Travel he had the idea during 2020’s lockdown, and the driving force behind it is to “create a different type of tourism.” It will also, he said, “ground culture in people’s daily lives.”
“Art can’t survive on big galleries alone.”
Schmidt also told CNN Travel there is already some proof of concept: according to him a 2019 exhibition on the 15th-century Battle of Anghiari, in eastern Tuscany, held in Anghiari itself, quadrupled the number of visitors for the local museum’s previous record.
Schmidt is planning “at least 60, maybe even 100 exhibition spaces” across Tuscany, and, according to CNN Travel, “has hinted that they will include a villa that once belonged to the Medici family in Montelupo Fiorentino, half an hour west of Florence; port city Livorno; belle epoque spa town Montecatini Terme; and Careggi, where another Medici villa sits just east of Florence.”
Since the project’s announcement, other towns have expressed their interest in being involved too.
For those worried about the art, Schmidt highlighted in his conversation with CNN Travel that restoration of works could form part of the project too, and that for those visiting Florence there will still be plenty of big-ticket pieces on display.
“We already have over 3,000 works of art on display in the Uffizi – that’s enough… The Uffizi Diffusi will bring to light works of art that currently nobody can see in a calmer, more intimate setting.”
Phase one of ‘Uffizi Diffuzi’ is set to begin this summer.