Over-tourism becomes a concern for Italian museums

 Wednesday, July 26, 2023

The Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence is a treasure trove of cultural artefacts that are mainly unknown to the general population. The gallery, which opened in 1784, is home to a one-of-a-kind collection of 17th- and 18th-century musical instruments, Florentine Renaissance religious paintings, Orthodox icons, and plaster castings of ancient statues.

Nonetheless, according to museum director Cecilie Hollberg, tourists from all over the world flock to see David.

Given the record-breaking number of tourists expected this year, the gallery sought to ensure a smoother flow of visitors while also making them more comfortable.

Italy is one of the world’s top tourist destinations, yet the tourism sector was decimated by COVID-19 travel restrictions. However, by 2023, all of that has passed.

Despite hot temperatures, worldwide inflation, and the uncertainty surrounding the Ukraine situation, the streets and squares of Italy’s most famous tourist attractions – Rome, Florence, and Venice – are once again crowded with visitors.

Early indications indicate that Italy’s tourism industry may break records this year, surpassing those established in 2019 before the epidemic.

But the return of tourism is a double-edged sword.

“The country definitely suffered when the tourists disappeared during the pandemic. But now that they are returning, the challenge is how to balance the needs of visitors with those of residents, and with the sustainability of the cultural sites themselves,” Antonio Molisano, a tourism researcher with the Italian Chamber of Commerce, told Xinhua.

The most common concerns are the overcrowding of city centres and transit networks caused by large numbers of tourists, sometimes known as over-tourism.

Meanwhile, restaurants and businesses in smaller towns, or even just a few blocks away from congested thoroughfares, may struggle to draw enough customers to flourish.

A programme dubbed “Uffizi Diffusi” (Widespread Uffizi) was offered two years ago by Florence’s Uffizi Museum as a solution to this quandary. Some of the museum’s cultural treasures are presented in smaller Tuscan towns as part of the programme, attracting tourists to less-known locales.

Hollberg said this approach could also be used elsewhere in the country.

“There’s only so much a single museum director can do, since they can only control what happens within their museum,” Hollberg said.

“But the growing number of tourists would have much less of an impact if they were not concentrated in a few areas. There is a great deal to see and enjoy in Italy.”

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