CNN- Italy might be the home of al fresco dining, but in the tourist mecca of Florence street-snacking has become such a problem that local authorities have introduced fines of up to €500
($581) to combat it.
The city ordinance, which came into effect on September 4, bans people from pausing in the historic center to eat food on sidewalks, roadways and on the doorsteps of shops and houses.
Around 10.2 million tourists visit Florence each year, to see such world-famous attractions as Michelangelo’s “David” and the medieval Ponte Vecchio — and that number has risen by 2.4 million in just five years.
The four streets affected by the ban — Via de’ Neri, Piazzale degli Uffizi, Piazza del Grano and Via della Ninna — are among the busiest in the city and the restrictions are in place during peak eating times: noon to 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Congestion and litter
Via de’ Neri is filled with food shops, including three branches of the wildly popular sandwich joint All’antico Vinaio and the much-loved ice cream store Gelateria dei Neri.
Hungry sightseers often loiter here to feast upon some of Italy’s finest carbs and dairy. This, supporters of the measure say, exacerbates congestion in an already crowded city and also adds to a litter problem.
Dario Nardella, the Mayor of Florence, says in a Facebook post announcing the move: “Sometimes we are faced with tourists who lack education towards our city […]. And that’s not good at all.”
He adds, “Tourists, if they behave like they do at home, are and will always be our welcome guests, especially if they want to enjoy our gastronomic specialties […]. Only those who love Florence deserve Florence.”
It’s not the first time Nardella has taken a hard line against street-guzzling. Last summer he ordered that the steps of the city’s churches be hosed down to deter tourists from picnicking upon them.
Florentines who back the move include Roberta Pieraccioni, president of the Via de’ Neri committee, who told Florence newspaper La Nazione that the group was “satisfied that the City has accepted our requests” and hoped that the new law would “restore a little decorum on our street.”
However, the most popular responses to Nardella’s Facebook missive pointed fingers at local authorities rather than the sightseers visiting their justly famous city.
Many argued that the problem could be alleviated by the introduction of more benches and seating areas.
“Do you know what I find abroad when I go to visit a city? I find benches and garbage cans!” comments Paola Lori.
Elisa Abara Gorgai chimes in that “some benches and clean public toilets like all civil cities” would help tourists to enjoy Florence and encourage better behavior.
English-language news site The Local reported that a bilingual poster exhorting visitors to “respect residents, traders, and workers of this street” had been circulated to local businesses.
The poster states that transgressors will pay a fine ranging from €150 to €500, but it’s not known how the system of fines will be scaled or if there’ll be extra city resources allocated to enforcing the new measures.
With every year a new record-breaking year for volume of airplane passengers, overtourism has become one of the hottest buzzwords in travel, with destinations across Europe struggling to balance their need for the tourist dollar and to protect their region’s unique charms for residents and visitors alike.
Florence isn’t the only one of Italy’s blockbuster cities to have introduced such controversial measures.
In 2017, Rome also banned tourists from eating at some of its most famous landmarks including the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish steps.
And earlier this year, Venice introduced temporary regulations over the busy May Day weekend to segregate locals and tourists, with certain areas of the city only accessible to residents and regular visitors.