In May, after 600 years, the UK is closing its consulate in Florence as the country cuts costs and refocuses on the rising BRIC and Gulf nations. British consul David Broomfield will turn out the lights.
Why is the consulate closing?
A wider European review was conducted on how best to offer our consulate services and it was recommended that operations should be focused in Milan, Rome and Naples. Florence is too close to both Rome and Milan and we couldn’t shut either of those.
How did the British expat community react?
We don’t see much of the community for business nowadays because of the change in communication. There are up to 15,000 British citizens living in Tuscany, but with Italy part of the EU there’s also significantly less paperwork to fill out than before. The general flavour here, however, is a sad one because of the consulate’s long history and it’s symbolic status.
How did the Florentines react?
The reaction was quite marked. I’ve had many people call and write in. They were quite wedded to the consulate and its history, so they feel quite strongly about it. As consul, their great flow of warmth is comforting but they understand that things are changing. It’s a great tradition that will sadly end when I depart.