Gino D’Acampo: The Michaelangelo row is ridiculous – in Italy, we celebrate the body

 (Press image)
(Press image)

A museum in Florence found itself at the centre of a bizarre controversy this week, over a Florida school’s visit to see Michaelangelo’s statue of David.

Hope Carrasquilla, principal of the Tallahassee Classical School, was apparently forced to resign after leading the class trip. The school has a policy requiring parents to be notified in advance about “controversial” topics being taught.

Carrasquilla believes the board targeted her after three parents complained about a lesson including a photo of the “David,” a five-metre tall (17 foot) nude marble sculpture dating from 1504. The work, considered a masterpiece of the Italian Renaissance, depicts the Biblical David going to fight Goliath armed only with his faith in God.

Carrasquilla said that two parents complained because they weren’t notified in advance that a nude would be shown, while a third called the iconic statue “pornographic”. Celebrity chef and TV presenter Gino D’Acampo has some thoughts…

First of all, nudity and pornography are very different things. You should never confuse the two, because to do so is to have the completely wrong mindset. Children need to be educated about the difference, rather than just telling them they shouldn’t look at any images that show a penis or a vagina. Maybe Americans should be warned at passport control before they enter Italy, because even in the smallest, most remote towns… there are naked sculptures everywhere! They are naked because this is humans in their best, most pure form. And it’s ridiculous that anyone would be afraid of this.

I’ve been travelling around Italy for my show, Gino's Italian Escape, for the past 15 years. It was actually just commissioned for a new series, so in May I’ll be travelling around south Italy between Puglia and Basilicata for Gino’s Secrets of the South. I’m very happy that the show’s been commissioned again; it’s still going after 12 years! I think viewers in the UK really embrace culture - they want to go to Italy and experience everything it has to offer.

While I’m in my home country, I’m reminded of how Italians have a completely different attitude when it comes to the body. We don’t look for the “perfect” body like they do on social media. Italians celebrate every kind of body, because our way of thinking is that each one is beautiful in its own unique way. We don’t care about six-packs, no, no, no… that’s all rubbish. We celebrate the body in culture, in art, and on the beach, which is why you see all those 70-year-old nonnas sunbathing with their tops off.

So what I don’t understand is, how can these parents allow children to be on social media, on TikTok, where people are vulgar, sharing horrible things, and then be angry and offended by something as magnificent as Michaelangelo’s sculpture of David? Why is it OK for them to be on all these different platforms where they see all these unrealistic images? (If Michaelangelo was born today, one thing is for sure, is David’s penis would have been bigger.)

‘If Michaelangelo was born today, one thing is for sure, is David’s penis would have been bigger’ (Getty Images)
‘If Michaelangelo was born today, one thing is for sure, is David’s penis would have been bigger’ (Getty Images)

The reaction to the school trip [from parents and the school] has been outrageous. Are we talking about the same people who aren’t allowed to buy Kinder Eggs (they’re banned in the United States), but they can buy a gun? They can’t talk about sex or the body but they can watch the Kardashians? It’s ridiculous beyond belief. But the only thing you can do is laugh.

As told to Roisin O’Connor