The Uffizi Gallery in Florence is trying to prevent over-tourism by lending out masterpieces to towns and villages in lesser-known parts of Tuscany.
Destinations like Rome, Venice, Florence and the Amalfi Coast have long buckled under the pressure of visitors, with successive Italian governments at a loss on how to address the problem.
Now the Uffizi hopes to spread its visitors out, encouraging them to see world-class masterpieces in towns and villages they would not normally visit.
The museum yesterday began an initiative called "Uffizi Diffusi" - it best translates as "Scattered Uffizi" but it is also a riff on the concept of "alberghi diffusi" - boutique hotels that occupy entire villages emptied by decades of depopulation.
Paintings from the Uffizi have been loaned to museums in five villages in Tuscany - San Godenzo, Poppi, Montespertoli, Castiglion Fiorentino and Anghiari. It is the first stage of an initiative which will eventually lead to hundreds of artworks being loaned to dozens of locations.
Two of the five forthcoming exhibitions relate to Dante - Italy is this year commemorating the 700th anniversary of his death.
The village of San Godenzo has been loaned a large portrait of Dante that was painted in the 15th century by a Renaissance artist, Andrea del Castagno.
"This is a really important initiative for us," said Emanuele Piani, the mayor of San Godenzo, noting that Dante spent time in the town before his exile from Tuscany.
"We're taking works of art from the Uffizi out into Tuscany. It's about promoting these artworks but also promoting the places where they are being shown," said Eike Schmidt, the German director of the Uffizi.
"Within a few years, we hope that there won't be places with too many people and other places with too few. We're striving for a better balance. We want to transform the quality of tourism in this region."
Scattering artworks around towns and villages in Tuscany would provide art lovers with "a magical mystery tour" he said, quoting The Beatles.
Carlo Toni, the mayor of the hilltop town of Poppi, said it was "a great honour" to host works owned by the Uffizi.
It was appropriate because his town can also boast close links with Dante, he explained.
The Telegraph, London