Italy's left beats former Uffizi museum chief in Florence election run-off

By Angelo Amante

ROME (Reuters) -The centre-left easily retained its stronghold of Florence in the run-off round of mayoral elections in Italian cities, final results showed on Monday, sweeping aside its right-wing opponents amid a low turnout.

Voting on Sunday and Monday completed a round of elections in which centre-left parties also retained the northern city of Bergamo and snatched the Sardinian capital of Cagliari from Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni's right-wing bloc.

The results dealt a modest setback to Meloni, fresh from a triumph at European Parliament elections two weeks ago, but will do little to loosen her firm grip on national power in Italy.

All eyes were on Florence, the Renaissance city where the German-born former director of the Uffizi Gallery Eike Schmidt, who obtained Italian citizenship last year, ran for Meloni's coalition in an attempt to end decades of left-wing rule.

With the count complete, results showed the centre-left's Sara Funaro won over 60% while Schmidt was on around 39%.

Funaro was quick to claim victory as the count progressed. "I feel the excitement of all these months, the excitement of being the mayor of Florence," Funaro told reporters.

"We did very well. We are not sad at all," Schmidt said of the election result.

Only around 48% of Florentines went to the polls for the run-off, continuing a long-running trend of declining voter turnout in Italy.

The centre-left alliance - driven by the Democratic Party (PD) - was also ahead in the central university city of Perugia, and had also held onto Bari, the main city in the southern Puglia region, near-final results showed.

The run-offs were held in Italian cities with over 15,000 residents where no candidate got over 50% of votes in the first round. They involved 14 regional and provincial capitals and total turnout was around 48%, official data showed.

Some 63% of those eligible to vote cast their vote at the first round on June 8-9, which took place along with elections for the European Union parliament that was also marked by record low participation.

(Reporting by Angelo Amante; editing by Gavin Jones and Mark Heinrich)