(CNN) – As travelers return to Italy, one of the cities that has suffered the most at the hands of tourism seeks to defend itself.In an attempt to avoid saturation during the pandemic, Florence authorities announced that entry to the city’s most popular nightlife areas will be banned, unless they have eaten or drunk in the area.
And in an attempt to deal with the side effects of tourism, one of the most important voices in the city has called for a tax on street food stalls.
The mayor of Florence, Dario Nardella, signed a provision that prohibits, until further notice, roaming in popular areas on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.
Access to six areas of the historic city center, including the popular Santo Spirito nightlife area, is not allowed between 9:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m., unless people use the bars and restaurants found there.
Other prohibitions include the central areas of Piazza Strozzi, Santa Croce and Piazza SS Annunziata. They are all places where people like to meet in the evenings on the steps of the famous churches and palaces.
Eating or drinking is also prohibited on the steps of the Santo Spirito basilica 24 hours a day.
Anyone who violates the rules will be fined between € 400 and € 1,000 (US $ 475 – US $ 1,185).
The rules will be in effect until the end of the pandemic.
The inhabitants of the area have reacted with outrage to the news. Veronica Grechi, owner of an accommodation in Florence, «Velona’s Jungle“Said the decision” is not correct.
“The squares are public: if people are misbehaving you have to make them leave, it is not said that you can only access these places with a receipt from a bar, that is, you can only access if you pay,” he said.
“It’s okay to say you can’t take a beer and throw it on the floor, but limit access… no, it’s not okay.”
The call for a “tax on sandwiches”
But as the city authorities declare war on nightlife, the director of the Uffizi Galleries, home to one of the most famous Renaissance art collections in the world, he lashes out at tourists by demanding a “sandwich tax” on street food stalls that supply visitors with take-out meals that end up littering the city center.
«The prohibitions [de comer] and the fines [por ensuciar] they have been mostly inadequate to deal with the phenomenon, “Schmidt told CNN. The open courtyard surrounding the Uffizi is surrounded by built-in benches made of highly absorbent ‘pietra serena’ stone, so the problem isn’t just trash, he says: food and drink are ruining the stone that’s been there since the Renaissance period.
«Even now, the benches and steps of the Uffizi and the Loggia dei Lanzi [que da a la plaza principal] they are full of people eating and drinking. The result is oil and sauce on the stone, scraps of paper, food scraps, and soda stains everywhere. The stone absorbs everything and breaks down over time, so to protect it we have to clean it continuously.
“Holding job owners accountable through a small contribution could be a concrete way to tackle this.”
Street food vendors are different from restaurants, Schmidt said, because the latter have places where customers can eat, which they clean up afterward. Whereas with street food, «of course it is a legitimate business, but they take the money from the sale of the product, but essentially they throw the consequences, garbage, oil, ketchup dripping on the ground or on the stone, about citizens. So we have to balance the situation.
An “absurd” idea
His proposal has been greeted with joy by some residents. “The situation is terrible, and it must be managed,” says Grechi, who would like either to prohibit eating and drinking in the area, or to have urban planning modified to prohibit crowds of street food stalls: ” This means that those who do not want to sit down to eat go to the same places, “he said.
But industry professionals have reacted furiously.
Paolo Gori, President of the Business and Services Sector Confartigianato Imprese Firenze, a trade association of small and medium-sized businesses with 8,000 members in the area, called it “absurd.”
“This is not the time to think about new taxes after 18 months of the pandemic,” it told CNN, adding that about a third of its members have closed in the pandemic, or are about to do so.
“The hospitality sector is one of the most affected: they are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and here comes this idea of a tax on sandwiches.”
Furthermore, he said, “Florence was born with street food: we have a culture of street food,” referring to lampredotto, the local delicacy made from the fourth stomach of a cow, often served in a sandwich.
Instead, he said the city should put the responsibility on tourists who litter.
“We have to fine people who do not behave well, who litter the city,” he said.
“We love the tourists, but the behavior must be civilized. Florence is everyone’s heritage, but tourists must respect it enough to leave it clean.
A question of quality
Alessandro Frassica, owner of the luxurious Ino sandwich bar, agrees that it is too much, too soon.
“Definitely the problem exists, so measures must be taken that can improve itinerant tourism, but I have not understood how the tax would be applied, or to whom,” he told CNN.
“The problem is not limited to sandwiches,” he said.
“The ice creams, the pizzas … everything is out of control now, especially if we talk about the quality of what is offered.”
“Doing something of good quality has a cost, from the product itself to the staff, hygiene and cleanliness of the point of sale. So when something costs so little, we should ask ourselves questions.
“And let’s not forget that people often carry their own food in a backpack and leave the waste everywhere.”
But Schmidt insisted: “The situation that is emerging is already damaging various types of businesses, but above all it is damaging the image of the entire city, and that hurts us all.”