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Cultural vandalism: Uffizi chief presses for harsh penalties for defacing of Vasari Corridor

The spray-painted graffiti on exterior columns of the Vasari Corridor
The spray-painted graffiti on exterior columns of the Vasari Corridor Copyright Gallerie degli Uffizi via AP
Copyright Gallerie degli Uffizi via AP
By David MouriquandAP
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The series of cultural vandalism incidents across Italy continues...

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The director of Florence’s Uffizi Galleries has called for stiff penalties against the vandals who spray-painted graffiti on exterior columns of the Vasari Corridor connecting the famed museum to the Boboli Gardens.

Italy's Culture Minister Gennaro Sangiuliano weighed in by saying that the presumed vandals have been identified by Carabinieri police. He did not identify the suspects.

The Italian news agency ANSA said the Carabinieri had found two German tourists, vacationing in Florence, who are suspected of having scrawled the name of a German soccer club on the columns.

The investigation was continuing, and no one was reported detained.

“Actions like these must not remain unpunished,'' the minister said in a statement. “Now, let justice run its course.”

Sangiuliano said that vandals “need to understand that even a small scratch will be prosecuted from now on.”

Under Italian law, someone convicted of “aggravated damage,” which could apply to a vandalism case, risks a prison term as high as three years.

Italian police examined video to identify those responsible for the Vasari Corridor graffiti, which appeared overnight on the Arno River-facing side of the nearly kilometre-long corridor.

“Clearly this is not a drunken whim, but a premeditated act,’’ Uffizi director Eike Schmidt said in a statement. He called for harsh sanctions against those responsible, saying that in the US such cases could bring a prison term of five years.

“Enough with symbolic punishments and imaginative extenuating circumstances. We need the hard fist of the law,’’ Schmidt said.

Gallerie degli Uffizi via AP
The spray-painted graffiti on exterior columns of the Vasari CorridorGallerie degli Uffizi via AP

Political and cultural leaders condemned the graffiti, the latest in a summer of high-profile acts of vandalism targeting Italian monuments, including the Colosseum in Rome and Milan's landmark Vittorio Emmanuele II Galleria.

The continuing series of vandalism incidents across Italy continued earlier this month, after a group of young German tourists were accused of destroying a valuable 19th-century Italian fountain statue, after surveillance footage showed them toppling the figure while posing for photos.

Florence Mayor Dario Nardella promised a full investigation to identify those responsible for the “shameful act of vandalism” at the Vasari Corridor.

The aerial walkway designed by Giorgio Vasari was commissioned by Duke Cosimo de Medici in 1565 to allow grand dukes to move safely from Pitti Palace to the seat of government in Palazzo Vecchio.

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