In an accident of historic measure, an American tourist to Florence's Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, is fortunate today that the motto "You break it, You buy it" didn't apply. A finger from a 14th century statue on display was broken off when the unnamed visitor got too close to the priceless statue.When I went to Rome a few years ago and visited the (very dark and very crowded) Sistine Chapel, the security guards were constantly shouting in monotone, "No photos!" People still took flash pictures of the fragile frescoes. The lack of respect for history is appalling. I can understand, say, going to a Muslim country and telling barbaric shar'ia law to shove it. Perhaps not safe, but I can understand it on principle. Nevertheless, when I'm abroad generally I try to respect the host country and its history and culture, particularly when, as in the case of Italy, that history and culture has contributed so much to our own. If what I was told in Italy is any indication, many American travelers do not.
The incident happened when the American began touching the statue. A security guard who spotted him didn't arrive in time to prevent the damage as the finger from the masterpiece by medieval sculptor Giovanni d'Ambrogio separated from the hand. The signs reminding visitors not to touch the artwork were clearly ignored.
Ambra Nepi, the head of communications for Florence's famous marble Duomo, says that it was an unfortunate accident. The finger, in fact, was not part of the original artwork, which had been damaged and repaired years earlier.
"This was already a very fragile piece of art," she said. "But every year throughout the Duomo we have many items that are damaged and broken."
The full-time team of art restorers had already looked at the damage.
"We are confident that it can be eventually restored," Nepi said.
Media reports quoted the American director of the museum, Tim Verdun, as being outraged by tourists' lack of museum etiquette. "In a globalized world like ours, the fundamental rules for visiting a museum have been forgotten, that is: Do not touch the works."
Stuff like this is just plain offensive.