Richard Gere: City Keys & Controvery

Richard Gere

Famous American actor Richard Gere received the keys to the city of Florence on October 14 for his commitment to the field of human rights. Mayor Dario Nardella honored Gere in the Salone dei Cinquecento, where a crowd of proud fans were supporting him and taking photos.

“I am deeply moved by this recognition, I thank the city of Florence and I intend to come back again because there would be so many initiatives that I could work on together with this city,” said Gere. 

During the event, the exponents of center-right political parties and Five Star Movement protested outside Palazzo Vecchio, wearing T-shirts with the words ‘Stop ONG’ (organizzazioni non governative).  The term in English is NGO, which comprises a spectrum of independent nonprofits such as Amnesty International, Doctors without Borders and boats in the Mediterranean that save shipwrecked migrants desperately trying to reach Italy.  Gere was recently in Lampedusa to support the work of ‘Open Arms,” bringing supplies to stranded migrants.  

“We will not participate today in handing over the keys of the city to Richard Gere because we believe that the recipient must have strong ties with Florence or in any case extraordinary merits to justify such an honor,” said Ubaldo Bocci (Misto), Jacopo Cellai (Forza Italia), Alessandro Draghi (Fratelli d’Italia) and Federico Bussolin (Lega Salvini Florence). “This award seems like an opportunity for the mayor to get some visibility in the wake of the actor’s notoriety.”

Gere, however didn’t comment  on the center-right political controversy, which challenged the mayor for presenting the award, walking out of the ceremony. For Nardella, the absence of the center-right city councilmen was “absurd and incomprehensible: being given the keys to the city is a recognition of  humanitarian work,” the mayor said at the press conference.

Professor Andrew Geddes, director of the Migration Policy Center of the European University Institute, and journalist Eva Giovannini, moderated a dialogue between the actor and mayor Nardella for the guests at the ceremony.  The keys themselves are copies of the original ones used to open the city’s medieval gates.

In the afternoon, Gere was given a tour of the Uffizi Gallery by Uffizi director, Eike Schmidt, and followed by a visit to the headquarters of the Zeffirelli Foundation in Piazza San Firenze. At the end of the Uffizi tour, the actor signed autographs and took a group photo with museum employees.

“Richard Gere is a very attentive and curious visitor,” said Schmidt. “He focused on each work, patiently studying the details, and asking many questions.”

To read more in Italian, visit Florence’s La Repubblica website. (mary filatova)