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.