ROME – The Uffizi Gallery, the largest art collection in Italy, reopened on Wednesday after an 85-day hiatus due to pandemic lockdown restrictions.
“I am confident that this rebirth is a message of hope for the whole world,” the city’s mayor, Dario Nardella, said during the reopening alongside other civil and religious authorities.
Museum Director Eike Schmidt added: “It is the symbol of a Florence that rises stronger from darkness and crisis.”
But the Uffizi Gallery, one of the great icons of Italian culture, will face a “slow” and gradual return to normality.
Visits to the spectacular Renaissance art collection will only take place in the afternoon with in-depth disinfection procedures in the morning.
The total number of visitors at any one time has been halved from 900 to 450, to avoid crowds and to allow for social distancing.
To help maintain distance between people, marks have been placed on the floor from which visitors can admire the most important works on display.
Organizers want to avoid crowds at key paintings such as The Birth of Venus and Primavera by Renaissance great Sandro Botticelli, the double portrait of the Dukes of Urbino by Piero della Francesca, Tondo Doni by Michelangelo and Caravaggio’s Medusa.
Face masks will be compulsory and groups will be kept to a minimum of ten visitors and members will have to respect a 1.8-meter safety distance between each other at all times.
Guides will use headset systems so visitors do not have to get close to hear explanations.
The Uffizi reopening was a festive and unique occasion given that in the last century it was only forced to close three times: during World War II, during the 1966 floods and in 1993 during the Via dei Georgofili bombing carried out by the Sicilian Mafia.
Schmidt said that during the nearly three-month closure the box office lost out on over a million visits amounting to some €12 million.
The reopening will not put an end to the financial losses, as in the coming months the Uffizi is expecting a “reduced number of visits” and does not foresee a return to normality until the health crisis has passed.
“We are in an intermediate phase,” the director said.
Since the beginning of the outbreak in Italy on Feb. 21, 233,515 infections and 33,530 COVID-19 deaths have been recorded.
The nation has been in a process of de-escalation after nearly three months under strict lockdown and economic activities across most sectors are slowly resuming.
On Wednesday, travel between regions was restored and borders reopened for citizens arriving from the European Union with no quarantine necessary.