FLORENCE, March 12 — Florence's world-famous Uffizi Gallery said yesterday that art lovers had rushed to its new Facebook page as the museum — like others across Italy — stays shut to fight the country's coronavirus outbreak.

The page, launched on Tuesday, had notched up more than 19,000 followers by yesterday evening and the three videos it had posted had more than 300,000 views.

The museum is one of Italy's most visited attractions and houses a priceless art collection, notably of masterpieces of the Italian Renaissance.

But since the weekend visitors hoping to see them up close have been left disappointed by the closure of the gallery, along with all the country's cultural institutions.

One of the videos to have received thousands of views is a virtual welcome to the collection from the museum's director Eike Schmidt, while another shows off a room dedicated to works by Michelangelo and Raphael.

“Culture and art can be a great support and comfort at this difficult time which is requiring great sacrifices of us all,” Schmidt said in a statement.

He said the museum was taking the encouraging visitor numbers to the site as “an invitation to disseminate our masterpieces with ever greater enthusiasm, offering virtual tours and other many other video stories.”

The museum houses the collection of the powerful Renaissance-era Medici family, with notable works including Botticelli's “Birth of Venus” and “Primavera,” Raphael's “Self-portrait,” Michelangelo's “Doni Tondo” and Caravaggio's “Bacchus.”

The closures are due to run until April 3.

Italy is the country worst affected by coronavirus after China, where it began at the end of December. At 1700 GMT yesterday, Italy had recorded 12,462 cases with 827 deaths. — AFP-Relaxnews