Florence mayor aims to keep picnicking tourists at bay with hosepipes

Dario Nardella to discourage people from ‘camping out’ by hosing down steps of Basilica of Santa Croce and other sites

The mayor of Florence has told tourists they will “get wet” if they settle down for lunch on the steps of some of the city’s prized churches as he is turning to hosepipes to restore “decorum” among visitors to the Renaissance city.

The steps of the Basilica of Santa Croce, the burial place of Michelangelo, will be the first to be hosed down, taking place at about lunchtime, in order to stop visitors from eating on them, followed by the Chiesa di Santo Spirito.

“We have nothing against tourists. We know that they are a great resource for our city,” the mayor, Dario Nardella, told The Guardian.

“But there is a problem with respecting decorum. The majority of visitors are respectful and elegant. But there has been an increase among those who don’t respect our cultural heritage, who sit down on church steps, eat their food and leave rubbish strewn on them.”

The streets of the city’s historic centre, a Unesco world heritage site, will also be hosed down as part of what will initially be an experiment to see if tourists can be discouraged from eating lunch on the steps.

Nardella directed the blame mostly at day-trippers, such as those on cruise itineraries, who “come for just a few hours”. He said: “It’s not that eating a sandwich while walking along the street is banned or that people can’t sit down at other times.

“We want to put people off from camping out. If they sit down, they’ll get wet. Instead of imposing fines, we thought this measure was more elegant.”

The measure is one of several implemented by Nardella in a city that attracts about 12 million tourists a year since he became mayor in 2014.

Concerned about the spread of fast-food outlets catering to backpackers, he introduced regulations in January last year stipulating that restaurants in the centre use products that were typical of the city and the Tuscany region.

He also blocked an application by McDonald’s to open an outlet in the historic Piazza del Duomo, prompting the US chain to seek €17.8m (£15.5m) in damages.

Angela Giuffrida in Rome

The GuardianTramp

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