Just back from a quick trip to the US, where he addressed 2,000 students at the University of Michigan United nations On the topic of climate change, the smiling Mayor of Florence, Dario Nardella, is reaching out to me via Zoom. The frescoed ceilings of his office illuminating my computer screen make the usual teleconferencing exercise festive.
Speaking of climate change, I asked him about the activists notorious for being expelled now, cursingly, from Palazzo Vecchio, Florence’s medieval town hall, who were spraying them with orange paint. He says the act was pure vandalism, not activism.
“I do not consider this act as a mere demonstration,” he said. “I immediately had a reaction. An emotional reaction. That’s why I decided to run towards the building, to defend the Palazzo Vecchio, which I consider a Florentine home and also a symbol of international cultural heritage. You can’t attack art to defend nature.”
Nardella told me there was a police investigation into the incident. But he thought it would not be bad for those who have defaced the Palazzo Vecchio to spend two or three weeks doing some community cleaning – cleaning “all the historic buildings we have in the city”. And the mayor adds: “Florence is like an open-air museum, full of paintings and sculptures.” For this reason, climate change has been detrimental to the city’s Renaissance heritage.
Nardella is well aware of the threat and says the city is firmly committed to climate policy. Florence, he says, is one of a hundred “smart, climate-neutral cities — striving to achieve climate neutrality by 2030, 20 years ahead of European targets.”
Another story that made headlines this month was the forced resignation of Tallahassee, Florida manager Hope Carrasquilla, after a technical altercation at Renaissance. Some parents of sixth graders have complained that they weren’t forewarned that their children would see some artwork involving nudity in class. At least one is equal Michelangelo’s famous David statue to “pornography”. David is one of the most famous works of art in Florence.
“I was shocked,” says Nardella. “We absolutely can’t confuse pornography with art. And David is clearly a symbol of world art. I can’t tell you how many people every day to share feelings, to see David. I think this mixing of art with pornography is a direct result of ignorance in the world.”
Nardella says he invited Carrasquilla to Florence and she told him she would be glad to come. Even if Carrasquilla wasn’t the one teaching the art, and even if her school claimed her expulsion was over a whole host of issues rather than just an art history squabble, she’s become something of an icon now in Florence, a city Nardella calls “one of the symbols of humanity in the world.” .
Meanwhile, as Mayor Carrasquilla waits, he says he’s glad he did We welcome American tourists In droves to Florence after staying away during two years of COVID lockdowns.
“I would like to thank all the visitors, especially the American visitors, because after COVID we were very depressed. But now we are excited because the last year 2022 was a record in terms of the number of tourists returning to the city.”
And Nardella says one of the lessons of COVID has been to shift value away from “selfishness and materialism” and focus on the essentials, like culture. He’s glad Florence is back in her show stuff game.