An installation by renowned artist Christo, which allows people to walk on the waters of a northern Italian lake, was due to close Sunday, after attracting more than twice the number of visitors organizers had expected.
The June 18-July 3 Floating Piers project on Lake Iseo, about 90 kilometres east of Milan, is a 3-kilometre, 16-metre-wide bright yellow floating structure that connects the Monte Isola island and San Paolo islet with the shore.
Bulgarian-born, New York-based Christo, known for previous spectacular public installations such as gift-wrapping the Reichstag building in Berlin and the Pont Neuf in Paris, said visitors "feel like they are walking on water – or perhaps the back of a whale."
It is made of 100,000 square metres of "shimmering yellow fabric, carried by a modular floating dock system of 220,000 high-density polyethylene cubes," the artist said on a promotional website.
According to the Corriere della Sera newspaper, while there was an expectation that about 500,000 people would go through the experience, the final number of visitors is likely to be in region of 1.2 million.
On Saturday, when visiting times were restricted to 12 pm-6:30 pm because of bad weather, 80,000 people showed up, local authorities said in a statement. This was only 30,000 fewer than Friday, when the Piers were accessible throughout the day.
"We continue to be amazed by the record number of visitors coming to experience The Floating Piers - each day we are seeing more and more people," operations director Vladimir Yavachev said before the final weekend opening.
Access to the installation is free, but Christo had to give up on his original idea to leave it open 24 hours a day, because of the occasional bad weather, but also to allow repairs and give local communities night-time respite from the constant flow of people.
Long queues have been a constant feature of the installation, and at the most congested times the authorities suspended or deliberately delayed train services to tiny Lake Iseo to slow down the number of arrivals.
The Floating Piers is Christo's first major project since his wife and artistic partner Jeanne-Claude died seven years ago. Once dismantled, the 220,000 plastic cubes that make up the installation will be industrially recycled.