Britain to Close a Consulate With a View

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FLORENCE, Italy — It has seen the rise of the Grand Tour and the package tour, the romance of E. M. Forster’s “Room With a View” and the tensions of two world wars. And now, after five centuries, the British Consulate in Florence is closing its doors, a victim of budget cuts and the currents of history.

Once a haven for traveling aristocrats and dreamy Britons escaping the strictures of home for the looser ways of Italy, in recent years the consulate has dealt more with lost passports than lost morals. But it holds a central place in the history of British-Italian relations, and news of its closing has been taken as an affront here.

The mayor of Florence has expressed regrets, one Florentine aristocrat says she hopes to raise the issue at the royal wedding, and a leading British historian here has questioned Britain’s diplomatic priorities.

As the sun streamed through the windows of his office overlooking the Arno River on a recent morning, David Broomfield, the man who will most likely be the last British consul of Florence, treated the news wistfully. “It’s not like I’m the last governor leaving the old colony with a feather in his hat,” Mr. Broomfield said. “But it’s the end of an important tradition here for 500 years.” There was an English diplomatic presence in Florence as far back as the 1450s....

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