Former Uffizi Director Announces Run for Mayor of Florence

Some of Italy's right-wing politicians have expressed their support of Schmidt's candidacy.

Eike Schmidt Director of Gallerie degli Uffizi museum gives a speech during the ceremony of inauguration of the Uffizi's Royal Mail Palace Restored at Uffizi's Royal Mail Palace on January 21, 2023 in Florence, Italy. Photo: Roberto Serra - Iguana Press/Getty Images.

Eike Schmidt, ex-director of the Uffizi Galleries in Florence, has finally announced plans to run for mayor of the Tuscan city. The German art historian has been teasing the idea to the press for many months, repeatedly stating that he could neither “confirm or deny” the rumors while publicly criticizing the current center-left mayor Dario Nardella.

The vote will take place on June 8 and 9, and he has called on the country’s center-right parties to form an alliance in support of his campaign. He has so far won support from the center-right Forza Italia party and Matteo Salvini’s right-wing populist party Lega. Additionally, Italy’s far-right ruling party Fratelli d’Italia, led by prime minister Giorgia Meloni, has already backed his bid for the office.

“Schmidt’s candidacy is excellent news for the city,” said Fratelli d’Italia’s local councilor Jacopo Cellai, according to the Corriere Fiorentina. “It is a quality choice.”

“Eike Schmidt’s candidacy as mayor of Florence is an act that strengthens the unified spirit of Europe,” commented Italy’s culture minister Gennaro Sangiuliano, who was appointed by Meloni in 2022. He added that Schmidt is “a consecration of the notion of a European citizen.”

In December, Schmidt was appointed director of the Capodimonte museum in Naples. Having only just started in this new role, he now plans to ask the Ministry of Culture for permission to take leave in order to start his campaign in Florence, where he plans to spend all his time from mid-April onwards. If he wins, he will step down from the Capodimonte, but if he loses it is not clear that he will be welcomed back.

The image shows two men shaking hands in a group of men. The people are standing outdoors, wearing suits and jackets.

Italian Government Minister for Culture Gennaro Sangiuliano, left, meets Eike Schmidt, director of Gallerie degli Uffizi Museum in 2023 in Florence, Italy. Photo: Roberto Serra – Iguana Press/Getty Images.

The mayor of Naples, Gaetano Manfredi, told the Guardian that the campaign risks Schmidt losing “the value of impartiality that Capodimonte’s authority demands.” Meanwhile, Vincenzo De Luca, president of the wider Campania region, which includes Naples, said he found Schmidt’s decision “offensive” and “unacceptable.”

Speculation about Schmidt’s political aspirations peaked last November when he became a naturalized Italian citizen, a necessary step if he ever hoped to be elected. He insisted that his auspiciously timed application for citizenship had been in the works for four years but was delayed by the pandemic.

Schmidt was appointed director of the Uffizi in 2015, successfully modernizing the museum and growing its visitor numbers. He has an Italian wife.

Aged 55, Schmidt will run as a center-right candidate against Nardella’s successor Sara Funaro. He announced the plans on April 6 during a last-minute, ad-hoc press conference outside of the Palazzo Vecchio, Florence’s historical seat of power.

“Since July last year when it came out that my second [term] as director of the Uffizi was not renewable, there were some Florentines who stopped me on the street encouraging me to run for mayor,” he claimed, according to the Corriere Fiorentino. “I asked them what needs to be done better than now and what their problems are and over time I have collected a whole series of observations on problems beyond those I have seen firsthand.”

Schmidt has not yet revealed the campaign slogan with which he hopes to overturn the three-decade rule of the center-left Democratic Party in Florence. If he becomes mayor, he said plans to improve safety and cleanliness, better manage high levels of tourism, improve housing options for families and young people, and regenerate the city’s main park Cascine.

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