Lonely Planet Writer

How to leave your mark on Florence’s cathedral without destroying the walls

Italy is making new moves to protect Florence’s cathedral from graffiti by installing tablets that allow visitors to leave their mark without destroying the walls of the historic monument.

The Duomo graffiti causes a headache for staff.
A sunset view of Duomo in Florence. Image by MasterLu/Getty Images

The tablets are in place as visitors go up and down to the top of the Duomo. People who wish to leave a message can do so on them and even customise them with different backgrounds and choose pen or spray paint.

The Duomo grafitti messages will be printed out and stored in the cathedral archives and online, making them a more permanent memento than the scrawled messages on the walls which are painstakingly cleaned by staff.

The decision has been made by the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore, a non-profit in charge of the care of preservation of the Piazza Duomo. In a statement, they explained that “the idea was to raise awareness among visitors about vandalism, but also give them the chance to leave behind a record, an everlasting sign of their passing through, without damaging the monument.”

While the organisation condemned graffiti as “antisocial and childish behaviour”, they said they recognised that the desire to leave your mark in history “is just part of the human nature”.

The cathedral’s tablets were installed following a successful scheme at the nearby Campanile. The tablets have been in place for more than a year, resulting in 18,000 digital scrawls being preserved and a significant drop in the level of graffiti needing to be cleaned from the walls. Similar tablets have been installed at Mount Everest base camp and the Great Wall of China.

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