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Florence’s Duomo invites visitors to leave “virtual” graffiti

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Touchscreens are offered as deterrent to would-be vandals

The walls of Florence’s famed basilica, once covered in graffiti, are pristine again, and the foundation that restored them hopes to keep them that way. The solution: offer graffiti-happy tourists a chance to leave a digital message instead.

For hundreds of years, visitors who ascended the 463 steps to the top of Brunelleschi’s Duomo in Florence have left mementos of their visit in the form of scrawled graffiti on the cathedral’s 14th-century walls. It seems that stiff penalties against vandalism and signs pleading “Do not write on the walls” have not successfully deterred the miscreants.

Visitors can now leave a message on a touchscreen located at the top of the stairs to the dome. According to the New York Times, the tablets, which for the last year have also been available in the bell tower next to the Duomo, offer an experience just as satisfying as the real thing:

With virtual graffiti, visitors can select the background they want to write on: wood or marble, iron or plaster — like that found in the monument. Then, with their tool of choice, from lipstick to spray paint, they are able to use their fingertips to etch symbols, names and messages.

The foundation behind the clean-up promises that unlike traditional graffiti which is erasable and evanescent in nature, these digital scribblings will be around forever. The messages will be posted on a website and archived for generations to enjoy.

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