(ANSA) - A famous 16th-century statue of Neptune in Florence's central square has been damaged by vandals who tried to climb up it during the night between Tuesday and Wednesday.
One of the three youths, whose stunt was filmed by police security cameras, broke off the statue's right hand as he climbed up it. As it fell, the hand broke a staff that the sea god holds in his other hand. The large shell sculpted at the base of the statue was also chipped by the falling pieces of marble.
Police are examining the film footage of the incident, which took place at about 3.30 am, and are believed to have fairly good images of the vandals' faces. The statue of Neptune was sculpted by Bartolomeo Ammannati between 1565 and 1575. It stands in Piazza della Signoria, near a corner of the historic Palazzo Vecchio city hall.
The 4.2-metre statue, known to Florentines at the 'biancone' (White Giant), has suffered damage from vandals several times in the past. In 1981, one of the stone horses pulling Neptune's shell-shaped chariot had its frotn hooves broken off. A year later, during the night after Fiorentina won the soccer
championship, the statue's shoulder was painted bright blue.
The hooves of the horses were broken off again in 1986 and 1989.
In 1991 a man wearing only underpants climbed up the statue in a bid to remove the spiky ring of metal which authorities had placed on its head to keep pigeons and their excrement off it.