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Poor old Neptune


I've been busy for the last several days, first with a dear friend visiting from Alberta and now, preparing for a guest from Frankfurt who is arriving Thursday for a 10-day visit. It's great fun having visitors, but I have fallen behind in blogging. Still, I found this news story from Florence too interesting to pass up.

According to the Italian news agency ANSA, city council in Florence has come up with a new high-tech surveillance system that it hopes will drive vandals away from the famous 16th-century fountain of Neptune in the city's Piazza della Signoria (certainly, one of my favourite spots in Florence.)

Poor giant Neptune has suffered repeated indignities over the past number of years through vandals' attacks, including an incident in 2005 when Neptune's hand and staff were shattered into more than 30 pieces when a drunken youth scaled the fountain with two friends.

Now, it seems that engineers from Siena University have designed a system to detect intruders who enter into the fenced-off area around the fountain. A surveillance camera will view the entire monument from a height of 40 meters. If a potential vandal is spotted, the camera sets off the alarm and two other cameras are supposed to automatically zoom into the area where the intruder has wandered, taking high-resolution footage of the person, reports ANSA.

Lights can also be switched on to illuminate the fountain, and a warning can be broadcast, via loudspeaker, in the hope of scaring off potential vandals.

City council says the system may be extended to other monuments.

The statue of Neptune was sculpted by Bartolomeo Ammannati around 1565 and rests near a corner of the historic Palazzo Vecchio. It was commissioned to mark the wedding of Francesco I de' Medici with grand duchess Johanna of Austria that year. The assignment had first been given to Baccio Bandinelli, who designed the model but he died before he could start working on the block of Apuan marble.

Standing fully 4.2 meters (about 14 feet) in height, the fountain isn't extremely popular and Florentines mockingly refer to it as 'Il Biancone' -- the white giant or big whitey.

Perhaps for that reason, it has long been the target of vandals. In 1981, one of the stone horses pulling Neptune's shell-shaped chariot had its front hooves broken off. A year later, during the night after Fiorentina won the Italian soccer championship, the statue's shoulder was painted bright blue.

The hooves of the horses were broken off again in 1986 and 1989.

Comments (8)


Poor old Neptune indeed, he and his cousin The Little Mermaid. Hope the new technology works out.

Kathy (Trekcapri):

Hi Sandra, thank you for this very interesting post. I sure hope the new security measures work for Neptune! Have a great evening.


Hi Marcia! Maybe if the Little Mermaid had been included in the fountain, the statues would have had more respect.

Kathy, I hope the security measures work as well -- but I have to say that I'm not really fond of Neptune, so it's hard for me to be too sympathetic!

I am glad you took time out of your busy schedule to write about this. It is very interesting, and I sure do hope the new system works.
Enjoy your time with your visitors.


Neptune may not be too popular, but he is still a work of art, and works of art should be respected and not vandalized.

OK, I am off the soapbox now!

I remember our tour guide in Florence making all kinds of jokes about the poor guy. It's kind of hard to believe he's been vandalized so often because that square was always full of people!


Candi, I agree -- I hope the guy can get some protection now!

Nancy, you make an excellent point. Even though some mock Neptune, works of art should be respected and protected.

Annie, there must be people around no matter the time of night, to see who is vandalizing Neptune. But perhaps because he isn't popular, no one says anything. Or maybe it's just a little too dark in that part of the square, so the vandals aren't easily seen. In any event, this system should at least make it easier for authorities to find out who is picking on Neptune!

Poor old Neptune. I just don't understand the thrill vandals get destroying these beautiful works of art. I hope the loudspeakers are not set off in the middle of the night to wake me up while I am there this summer. Thanks for posting this. I had no idea of this new security system nor the problems they have been having with Neptune.

I hope you are enjoying your time with your visitors. I still owe you an email. Am finally catching up with everything.

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