The Italian Almanac

Michelangelo's David

Italian News - September 1

Pollution, vandalism and natural decay have run up a maintenance bill for Italy's cultural heritage that the state says is too big for it to handle, so the art-laden country is calling on citizens to help fill the breach.

But aware that fundraising usually gets a cool reception here, the government has decided on shock tactics. Would seeing the legs hacked off Michelangelo's David turn your stomach? Or would seeing strips torn off the canvas of Botticelli's Venus bring tears to your eyes? That is what the Italian state is hoping.

Italians returning from holiday over the next weeks will be confronted with a barrage of publicity on TV, posters and in the press featuring the staged destruction of its most famous sites and the slogan: "Without your help, Italy could lose something".

Organisers hope the nightmare vision of David with his limbs lopped off or Leonardo da Vinci's "Last Supper" with disciples scratched out will scare Italians into helping the third of Italy's cultural sites deemed to be in a state of emergency.