People have been complaining about “the tourists” in Florence for at least a century, but crowds and their behaviour keep getting worse, not better. This year, city administrations are taking action. But is there any way to reverse the trend?
November may be rainy here, but it’s a fast walker’s paradise. The streets, devoid of tourists, take back their medieval aura, ringing with the sounds of neighbours exchanging greetings across time-worn windowsills and the clanking of the coffee machine and its cups at the local bar. This is the Florence I fell in love with, and I renew my vows with it each year.
Then Easter rolls around and the city once again plays host to millions of people. We huff and puff crossing piazza Duomo, dodge selfie sticks while attempting to reach a government office, and risk being run over by a bus while dipping into the road to pass slow trolley-pullers near the station. It’s not just the crowds: people seem to become more maleducati by the minute.
The summer of 2017 goes down in history as the moment it all came to a head, when cities like Venice, Rome, Dubrovnik and Barcelona said basta, imposing a series of mostly ineffective knee-jerk solutions. For every hungry visitor eating a panino on the steps of Santa Croce there’s a wet surprise; for every insane swimmer in the Grand Canal there’s a hefty fine. For dreamers wishing to return to Rome by tossing a coin into the Trevi Fountain, there’s a crowd-limiting path and a newly minted police officer urging them not to stick around.