Fed up with new instances of vandalism to Italy’s preserved monuments, buildings, and artwork, Italian Culture Minister Gennaro Sangiuliano proposed a new law at a Cabinet meeting yesterday that would impose fines ranging from €10,000 (~$11,000) to €60,000 (~$66,000) for those responsible for damages moving forward.
The law, which addresses the “destruction, dispersion, deterioration, disfigurement, soiling, and illicit use” of cultural patrimony, seeks to allocate the fines for the repair, restoration, and clean-up of the vandalized sites and objects. The Council of Ministers approved the bill unanimously on Tuesday, April 11, making its adoption into Italian law in Parliament extremely likely under Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s far-right government.
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Sangiuliano stated that it cost the Italian government over €40,000 (~$44,000) to restore the façade of the Palazzo Madama (the Senate House) after four members of Italian climate emergency group Ultima Generazione sprayed gallons of neon orange paint on it in early January this year. “Cleaning requires the intervention of highly specialized personnel and the use of very expensive machinery,” Sangiuliano stated at the Cabinet meeting.
“Attacks on monuments and artistic sites cause economic damage to the community,” Sangiuliano said. “Whoever carries out these acts must also assume financial responsibility.”
In an interview with Hyperallergic, 39-year-old Sandro (who preferred not to share his last name), a member of Ultima Generazione, chuckled at Sangiuliano’s statement regarding the restoration expenses for Palazzo Madama, claiming that the organization consults material specialists “in order to make sure that we don’t do any permanent damage.”
“I would really like to see the details behind this number,” Sandro added, citing that the clean-up for an earlier paint-spraying demonstration at Florence’s Palazzo Vecchio required only a paltry 5,000 liters of water for cleaning — a literal drop in the bucket when reports indicate that Italy loses over 40% of its filtered water due to leaky pipes amidst a continuous drought.
Sandro told Hyperallergic that Ultima Generazione has been paying fines for its demonstrations with temporary ramifications, also drawing attention to the irony regarding the increased fines imposed on Italian farmers in Lombardy caught stealing public water.
This bill proposal comes only a week after three members affiliated with Ultima Generazione collected at the Spanish Steps in Rome to dye the water black in Pietro Bernini’s famous Barcaccia Fountain. Roman Mayor Roberto Gualtieri denounced the group’s demonstration, tweeting that they had “risked ruining it [the fountain]” with the black liquid, and that “monuments must be respected because they belong to everyone.”
“Talking about the decree, it wasn’t really unexpected,” Sandro continued. “The government has started to act as the root of the climate crisis with this repression. That’s what they’ve chosen to do at, at least at this very moment, to distract from the real problem.”
When asked if Ultima Generazione plans to recalibrate its approach to climate emergency demonstrations, Sandro told Hyperallergic that “we will keep [it] up, of course,” and referred to an upcoming event on Earth Day (April 22), inviting the masses to “party like it’s the end of the world.”