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May 27, 2017

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Florence divided over of Kim-Kanye 'invasion'

FLORENCE, Italy--The celebrity circus heads to Florence on Saturday where U.S. hip hop star Kanye West and his fiancee Kim Kardashian host a private party that might or might not be their wedding.

Locals and visitors were divided on the eve of the party, with teens thrilled by the celebrity arrivals while older generations turned their noses up at the "invasion."

"Seeing Florence turned into Hollywood is not something you see every day!" said Sara, a teenager out for a stroll near the picturesque 16th century Forte Belvedere overlooking the Boboli Gardens where the festivities will take place.

But her friend Ilaria said Florence's precious Renaissance monuments should not be "sold off" amid controversy in the city over a municipal policy of renting out picturesque locations to high-paying customers like Kim and Kanye.

City spokesman Marco Agnoletti has said the couple will pay 360,000 euros (US$491,000) for the privilege and most of that money will go toward restoring the fortress for the public.

That is not enough to assuage Jean-Jacques and Diego, two friends who own a house nearby and divide their time between the Italian cultural jewel, France and Switzerland.

"It's an annoyance for the population, for neighbors. It's a Hollywood invasion that brings to the little streets of Florence a style that is really not in tune with the nature of Florentines," said middle-aged Diego.

Jean-Jacques agreed saying: "The adjective Pharaonic is for once appropriate in this case. It makes me sad when I think that there are one billion human beings who suffer from hunger."

But a pair of U.S. students out for a run on a sunny spring afternoon were untroubled by thoughts of global poverty and said they were delighted with the impending arrivals.

"I think it's very cool," beamed Victoria, from Fort Lauderdale. New Yorker Tiffany added: "I am not so excited about Kim and Kanye as much as their guests because it's Beyonce, Jay-Z. Really exciting people.

"That money will go towards Florence and that will benefit us in some way," she said.

A city press officer earlier said the celebration was a wedding that would be presided by a Protestant pastor.

But Agnoletti told AFP on Friday that "as far as the city is concerned, this is not a wedding since they are not registered."

"We don't know whether there will be a Protestant pastor or not and it's none of our business," he said.

The fortress was partially open to visitors on Friday but taking pictures inside the venue was temporarily banned as workers were seen making preparations for the party.

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