I go to visit Dr Cristina Acidini, Superintendent of the Historical, Artistic and Ethno-anthropological Heritage and the Museums of the City of Florence. I open a little door in a little street of Florence that divides the Palazzo Vecchio and the Vasarian building of the Uffizi. She works in a small office surrounded by books and papers and folders and has a very large and crowded desk.
I ask her: Is Florence the most visited city in Italy?
I don’t know if it is the most visited, but it is in a good position. Florence has a very important network of state museums, among them the Uffizi, the Pitti Palace, the Gallery of the Academy, the Boboli gardens, the Bargello, the San Marco and so forth.
How many visitors come to the Uffizi?
1,800,000 per year. Of course that is not so high if you compare it to the Louvre, but it is stupid to do so because the Louvre is twelve times larger. The Louvre is a universal museum. We have paintings and sculptures. The masterpieces are from Botticelli to Leonardo to Piero della Francesca to Paolo Uccello; the very famous The Holy Family (Doni Tondo), the only painting on panel by Michelangelo quoted by Vasari.
But how many visitors come to all the Florence museums?
Between five and six million. I must say that our museums have, more or less, an income of 22 million Euros per year and we don’t pay the salaries of the employees. More or less 15 million are used to keep the museums in good shape, to preserve and restore the artistic heritage. We also have to give some money for some of the projects of the town of Florence.
Is tourism increasing?
It is more or less stable, sometimes the numbers increase. Nowadays we have tourists coming from Russia, China and South America.
What do they want to visit?
The Uffizi and the Gallery of the Academy, because they want to see the David by Michelangelo. They also want to see the Pitti Palace and the Boboli Gardens.
Do you buy any paintings?
We normally do not buy so much, but we do try to buy when we find paintings on the market that are part of a pair that has been split.
What is your job about?
My main concerns are people and money. We have six hundred and thirty people working for us permanently, and then there are of course the visitors and the unions. Then I have to build partnerships with donors. And then there are the Friends of the Uffizi, of Bargello and various other museums. The Friends of Florence are very active in general.
Do you loan many paintings?
We lend two thousand pieces a year, from coins to huge sculptures. Many pieces come from our storage.
To whom do you lend?
From the highest to the smallest. We coordinated the exhibit of Raphael in Tokyo. In Bonn we organised an exhibition of three hundred and fifty pieces from Florence and other museums. The title was Florenz!
What about the New Uffizi?
We started the project in 2006, but it is very difficult to expand the building of Vasari. The only way was transforming the existing rooms in galleries that were fully installed and visible. Now we have more or less doubled the space of visible galleries. There are now one hundred and two. We used different colours to paint the walls of some of the rooms.
How many years have you worked in this job?
Seven years, and I am very pleased, although there are difficulties. For an art historian like me it is the dream of one’s life to work for the museums of Florence. Florence is a unique opportunity to be responsible and to be in touch.
Do you have young people working with you?
We give full access to young guest curators for exhibitions that come for academic background and they make a great contribution. Young people are very good, but we cannot offer permanent positions because the public administration has closed its doors. There were no new entrants until the new Minister of Culture, Dario Franceschini, recently did a new opening of some positions for young people, and this is a good, encouraging beginning. I think that up to now we were morally in default not to give opportunities to young people and we absolutely need new curators. Otherwise we should worry for the future of our heritage.
June 9th, 2014.