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Italy's virtual Venus tourism campaign under investigation

Influencer Venus disappears from social media.

Italy's much-criticised tourism marketing campaign featuring Botticelli's Venus as a "virtual influencer" is the subject of an investigation by the audit court of Lazio, reports La Repubblica.

The tourism ministry reportedly faces accusations of wasting public money on the "Open to Meraviglia" campaign which disappeared abruptly from social media during the summer tourist season.

The campaign faced a wave a criticism when it was launched by tourism minister Daniela Santanchè in April, with critics accusing it of being tacky, embarrassing and relying on tired stereotypes.

There was further controversy when Il Fatto Quotidiano reported that part of the promotional video was filmed in Slovenia, while an Italian marketing company purchased the Open to Meraviglia domain name after spotting that it was not registered.

The most recent post on the campaign's Instagram profile is dated 27 June, while its Twitter, Facebook and TikTok profiles can no longer be found.

The promotional video introducing the virtual Venus, who wears a miniskirt and eats a slice of pizza in front of Italian heritage landmarks, also appears to have been removed.

In response to questions from Fanpage in mid-August, Santanchè said the disappearance of Venus was a "considered choice" and that the virtual influencer would "be back soon".

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