Recently discovered frescoes will greet visitors to Florence’s Uffizi Galleries when the Italian museum reopens in May after months of being closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Workers doing restoration discovered the frescoes dating from the 17th and 18th centuries beneath plaster in the museum’s west wing, which is where the visitor entrance will be when the Uffizi opens to the public.
Uffizi director Eike Schmidt said the new entrance facing the Arno River would provide “a glorious introduction” for visitors.
The Uffizi, famed for its collection of masterpieces including paintings by Botticelli, Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, announced the May 4 reopening date, as Italy gradually reopens from rolling regional lockdowns.
The previously hidden frescoes include a life-size figure of a young Cosimo II de Medici dating from the 1600s, as well as decorative plant motifs from the 1700s on the walls and ceilings of nearby rooms.
The restoration project has reclaimed more than 40 rooms on the ground and semi-underground levels that had been inaccessible.
“There has been great progress in the last five years in recovering spaces inside the museum, progress that will allow a more rational and safe entrance to the museum,” Mr Schmidt said in a statement.
Eventually, the new entrance will hold classic statuary that had been in storage or recently purchased.
Under the Uffizi’s new entry system, visitors will buy tickets and deposit coats and bags in the west wing and cross through a courtyard to the east wing, where they will pass through metal detectors and pick up audio guides before starting their rounds of the museum.
The number of visitors at the museum last year dropped to about a quarter of those in 2019 due to the Covid lockdowns in the spring and autumn, with some 1.2 million people visiting in 2020, down from 4.4 million a year earlier.
The Uffizi has been closed since November 5 except for two weeks during the winter when Tuscany was under Italy’s lowest level of restrictions.
Along with museums being allowed to open, on Monday restaurants in low-risk zones will be allowed to offer outdoor dining before a 10pm curfew.