Art triumphs over terrorism at the Uffizi: People in Florence have rallied to the aid of their museum, where staff are working round the clock to reopen next Sunday, writes Patricia Clough

THE SOUND of hammering, the whine of drills and the shouts of workmen echo into the night as staff of the Uffizi work almost round the clock to reopen part of their bomb- damaged museum to the public.

Joiners are replacing the windows blown out on 27 May by 200kg of explosive in a terrorist car-bomb that killed five people and badly damaged the west wing of the museum. Workmen haul materials, replaster walls and mend stairs while plastic sheeting billows over the wrecked roof.

Reopening day has been fixed for Sunday 20 June, 'and we shall make it', Anna Maria Petrioli Tofani, the museum's director, said confidently. Visitors will once again be able to enter the east wing and see most of its greatest treasures: paintings by Giotto, Gentile da Fabriano, Piero della Francesca, Filippo Lippi, Botticelli, Leonardo and Mantegna.

Some of the most important works from the west wing will be on display in the former church of San Piero Scheraggio, an llth-century building incorporated into the ground floor of the Uffizi. They will include Michelangelo's Doni Tondo, a round painting of the Holy Family, Raphael's Madonna with a Goldfinch, Titian's Flora, Caravaggio's Young Bacchus and self-portraits by Rembrandt.

'About 80 per cent of the works that people come to the Uffizi to see will be on display,' said Dr Petrioli. The west wing will take 'months' to repair. The speed with which the Uffizi is being re-opened is due to the concerted action by its 150-odd staff who, without exception, agreed to work all hours without overtime pay to get the building back in shape. Otherwise, Dr Petrioli said she would have had to bring in outside help which would have been much slower and much more expensive.

But the speed also depends on contributions from Uffizi fans - and this is where Independent readers come in. The Independent, with its Italian and Spanish partners, La Repubblica and El Pais, is appealing to readers for funds to help repair and restore the Uffizi. US museums and others are making similar appeals.

'These donations will serve as ready funds to enable us to by-pass the bureaucracy so we can get the work finished fast, without any interruptions,' Dr Petrioli said. 'The situation of the Italian deficit is dramatic . . . obviously the state won't abandon us, but money will be very slow in coming. After all, they cannot take funds away from hospitals, for instance, to give to the Uffizi.'

Moreover, few know as well as the custodians of Italy's art treasures how slowly the state machinery grinds, and how long it takes before cash, when there is any, emerges from the bureaucratic pipeline. Italy is dotted with churches, beautiful buildings and monuments that have been covered in scaffolding for years because the money has run out.

After the bomb, the Italian government earmarked 30bn lire ( pounds 13.6m) for repairs, which must be shared with the Accademia dei Georgofili, a venerable agricultural institute which is housed in the same building. But already Dr Petrioli estimates that the bill is more likely to be around 50bn lire. She has no idea yet how much the voluntary donations will amount to 'but I don't imagine it will cover the extra 20bn'.

Sooner or later the government will have to find the rest, but the chances are it will be later, rather than sooner.

The saddest sights in the Uffizi are the three ruined paintings lying on the floor: Gherardo delle Notti's Adoration of the Shepherds, and two by Bartolomeo Manfredi. Two were reduced to tattered canvas by the blast, with only patches of paint still sticking in places. The third consists of only a few pathetic shreds. The 40- odd pictures that were cut by flying glass or had pieces of paint blown away, have been pasted over with fine paper to preserve loose paint and stored to await restoration. Three damaged Roman and Greek statues will also be restored.

The good news is that the structure of the Uffizi - built in the 16th century by Giorgio Vasari, one of the greatest architects and painters of his day, for Grand Duke Cosimo I de' Medici as administrative offices for the Grand Duchy of Tuscany - is undamaged. But it will need very specialised restoration work with the materials used when it was built.

To Independent readers she said: 'I would like people to realise that what is happening here in Florence is the contrary of what the terrorists intended.' There had been tremendous solidarity, with everyone forgetting their quarrels and joining in to help. 'First there was shock, then anger, then the urge to reconstruct . . . If the terrorists wanted to bring a nation to its knees they have achieved exactly the opposite. It is important to give a sign of this.'

HELP THE RESTORATION

THE Independent has joined an appeal launched by the Italian daily newspaper La Repubblica to raise funds to help restore the Uffizi museum. Readers who wish to contribute should send cheques (payable to The Uffizi Appeal) to The Uffizi Appeal c/o The Independent, 40 City Road, London EC1Y 2DB. Credit card and charity aid voucher contributions cannot be accepted.

On 26 June, the Rossini Chamber Orchestra will be giving a concert in aid of the Uffizi. The orchestra, conducted by Alexander Bryett, will play a programme of Mozart, Boccherini and Giovanni Cambini. The concert, starting at 7.30pm will be held at St Mary Abbots Church, High Street, Kensington, London W8. For further details, contact Opera Italiana on 071-736 3821.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher A specialist primary school i...

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links