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Tourism in Florence Falls 30 Pct.

February 5, 2000

FLORENCE, Italy (AP) _ Visits to Florence’s museums were down by almost 30 percent in January _ a sign that fear of Holy Year crowds in Italy actually may be keeping the crowds away, the city’s cultural director said Saturday.

Only 157,623 visitors toured the Uffizi, the Medici Chapels and Florence’s other state museums last month, down from 223,621 during the same month in 1999.

``Paradoxically, the obsessive propaganda of recent months has resulted in a boomerang,″ said Antonio Paolucci, city superintendent of fine arts. ``There’s been so much talk of Italy’s invasion by tourists, of a pilgrim influx ... that people have gotten frightened and prefer to stay home.″

Projections for visitors for the Roman Catholic Church’s 2000 Holy Year have varied. The Vatican recently raised its forecast to 30 million based on what it said was strong attendance at the year’s first events.

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