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In the before times (c. 2016), tourists would crowd six or seven deep to see Botticelli's “Birth of Venus” at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.
Masterpieces from the gallery’s famed Renaissance collections could be displayed in up to 100 exhibition spaces across the Italian region as part of the “Uffizi Diffusi” program.
Before the pandemic, Florence’s Uffizi Gallery saw upwards of 12,000 visitors daily. The entrance line could take three hours to get through, and once inside, crowds packed the rooms displaying the Uffizi’s most famous Renaissance artworks, including Michelangelo’s Holy Family and Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus. Many of the world’s top museums have faced the same logistical challenges in recent years, and though COVID has emptied city streets and attractions, that’s a normal few want to return to.
The Uffizi might have a solution: A number of masterpieces from its renowned collections will go on display more widely across Tuscany, CNN Travel reports, as part of a new program called “Uffizi Diffusi,” which translates to “scattered Uffizi.” The program will turn Italy’s most famous region into a massive museum of sorts, bringing pivotal artworks from the 13th through 18th centuries back to the places where they originated.
Uffizi director Eike Schmidt conceived the Uffizi Diffusi program during 2020’s COVID-19 lockdowns while the Florentine institution was shuttered, he told CNN. Amid the ongoing pandemic, Schmidt hopes the program will “create a different type of tourism,” he said, adding: “Art can’t survive on big galleries alone. We need multiple exhibition spaces all over the region—especially in the places where the art itself was born.”
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Outside of the Uffizi, works from the collection will be paired with museums or areas that share some sort of connection to the artwork or artists. In addition to spotlighting Tuscany’s cultural history, the program will also provide an opportunity to dig out thousands of pieces in the museum’s collection from storage—“bring[ing] to light works of art that currently nobody can see in a calmer, more intimate setting,” Schmidt said in a press conference.
While the exact details of the program haven’t been confirmed—such as which art will be on view, and when—Schmidt said the plan is to include between 60 and 100 exhibition spaces across Tuscany. One potential exhibit could display works related to Napoleon at Forte Falcone, a fortress on the island of Elba where the French military leader was once exiled, the Italian news site Livorno Today reported. Other potential locations might include the port city of Livorno, the spa town of Montecatini Terme (known for its thermal hot springs), as well as Medici family villas in Montelupo Fiorentino, Seravezza, and Careggi. The walled city of Lucca also offered its 14th-century Palazzo Ducale to host some of the art.
This isn’t the first time the Uffizi has shared its collection: In 2019, a landscape drawing from the museum was viewed in Leonardo da Vinci’s hometown to mark the 500th anniversary of the artist’s death. That same year, the Uffizi loaned works to a local museum in eastern Tuscany’s town of Anghiari for an exhibit on the 15th-century Battle of Anghiari.
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While many masterpieces will travel across Tuscany as part of Uffizi Diffusi, there will still be plenty to marvel at within the Florence museum. Adjacent to the Renaissance city’s Piazza della Signoria, the Uffizi Gallery currently hosts nearly 3,000 remarkable artworks, many by legendary Italian names such as da Vinci, Caravaggio, Raphael, and Michelangelo.
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