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Italy’s culture ministry has appointed 20 new directors to manage some of its top museums, including Florence’s Uffizi Gallery, with a number of foreigners brought in to revamp the way the country’s vast heritage is presented to the public.

Fourteen art historians, four archaeologists, one cultural manager and a museum specialist make up the new directors, who will be at the forefront of cultural reform in Italy. The majority have international backgrounds and half are women, although the culture minister, Dario Franceschini, said nationality and gender had no influence on Tuesday’s appointments.

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The Italian government on Wednesday said police had seized more than 5,000 ancient artifacts in a record 45-million-euro haul after dismantling a Swiss-Italian trafficking ring. Culture Minister Dario Franceschini said it was the country's "largest discovery yet" of looted works and consisted of 5,361 pieces, including vases, jewelry, frescoes and bronze statues, all dating from the 8th century BC to the 3rd century AD. The archaeological treasures came from illegal digs across Italy and "will be returned to where they were found," the minister told reporters.

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The Italian government is to spend €200,000 (£160,000) on a new plinth to support Michelangelo’s statue of David after hundreds of earth tremors shook Florence and the surrounding region in recent days.

Dario Franceschini, the culture minister, said funds would be provided to build an anti-seismic platform beneath the 14ft statue in the Accademia Gallery.

Florence and other cities in Tuscany have been hit by more than 200 minor tremors in the past few days, with the highest of 3.8 and 4 magnitude recorded in Chianti, the wine-growing region.

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The Italian minister for culture and tourism, Dario Franceschini, has announced a series of “revolutionary” reforms, which could mean that leading museums such as the Uffizi in Florence and the Accademia in Venice gain independence on a par with many of their European counterparts. Franceschini said: “The chronic lack of autonomy of Italian museums... greatly limits their potential.” He also aims to cut costs, streamline the administration and better integrate the work of his ministry.

The ministry was earmarked for staffing cuts after a €100m reduction in its budget from 2012 to 2013 under Franceschini's predecessor Massimo Bray. The latest review, presented by Franceschini last week, justifies 37 managerial redundancies in museums to reduce bureaucracy.

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