Florence Cracks Down on Picnicking Sightseers

You can still eat in the city—but don’t do it on the white marble steps of the Basilica di Santa Croce

Santa Croce
Stay off these steps to avoid the ire of Florence's mayor. Wikimedia Commons

If Italy is on your agenda, Florence is a must-see. The city full of Renaissance heritage, commanding landscapes and unforgettable buildings. But if you go, be careful where you eat lunch.

Florence is cracking down on tourists who sit on local steps to eat, reports NPR’s Laurel Wamsley. The city’s mayor has ordered soapy water to be sprayed on the steps of the popular Basilica di Santa Croce during lunchtime in a bid to shoo away hungry picnickers.

The Guardian’s Angela Giuffrida reports Mayor Dario Nardella is calling for a return to “decorum” after an increasing number of stair snackers left trash on church steps.

Italy is no stranger to tourist-unfriendly crackdowns. Last year, Italian officials decided to fine people who stake out beach spots overnight. Rome has gone even further, banning costumed centurion impersonators from its Coliseum as well as banning tourists from pausing in front of its most famous fountain (along with a host of other fountain-protecting moves) designed to keep visitors on the move and out of the water.

So maybe don't take your slice of pizza to the steps of the Santa Croce next time you’re in Florence. But the historic church is still worth a visit—the Unesco World Heritage-recognized spot has been around since 1295, and is home to the remains of Michelangelo, Machiavelli, Rossini and even Galileo Galilei. What would those vaunted men think of the soapy steps at the front of the cathedral? There’s no way of knowing—but it might give you something to chew on as you find another spot for lunch.

Editor's Note, 6/12/17: The image in this story initially depicted the Basilica di Santa Croce in Lecce not in Florence. The error has been corrected.

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