Florence fines for eating outdoors: Tourists to face fines up to €500

Florence has fired a fresh salvo in its long-running battle against the effects of mass tourism by banning visitors from eating panini, pizza and focaccia on the pavement and on shop doorsteps.

Tourists who find themselves on the wrong side of the law, which comes into effect today, face fines of between €150-€500 ($242-$806).

The ban applies to streets and piazzas around a particularly popular delicatessen in the city centre - All' Antico Vinaio, the Old Wine Merchant - which is situated between the Uffizi Gallery and the Palazzo Vecchio, Florence's medieval town hall.

Described by one food and travel magazine as "home of the world's best sandwiches", it has enjoyed a surge in popularity after being favourably reviewed on TripAdvisor, where it is related "excellent" by 79 per cent of contributors.

Like many Italian cities, Florence suffers from a dearth of public benches, so tourists often resort to squatting on the kerb or crouching in the doorways of shops and restaurants while grabbing a bite to eat.

Local businesses have long complained of the nuisance and the issue came to a head in August after a scuffle between the owner of a leather goods shop and a Spanish family camped out on his front step.

The new ordinance, signed by Dario Nardella, the mayor, will remain in force until Jan 6 and could be extended after that. The ban applies from noon-3pm and from 6pm-10pm.

The aim is to maintain "decorum" outside the pizzeria in Via de' Neri and surrounding streets, Florence city council said. "Violation of this regulation will be punished with fines of €150-€500," the council said.

Shopkeepers will be encouraged to put up signs, in Italian and English, explaining the new bylaw.

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"It's not a punitive measure, but a deterrent," said Mr Nardella. "If tourists behave in Florence as they would at home then they will always be welcome, especially if they want to try our gastronomic specialities."

The owner of the Antico Vinaio said he supported the new regulation, but called for more public benches to be provided for tourists. "We'll distribute maps to our customers to show them where they can go and eat without risking a fine," Tommaso Mazzanti told La Repubblica newspaper.

The number of tourists visiting Florence is sharply on the increase, from eight million in 2012 to more than 10 million last year. Cheap flights, a boom in Airbnb rentals and burgeoning new markets such as China, India and Latin America have fuelled the rise.

Political unrest and fears of terrorism in traditional hotspots such as Tunisia, Turkey and Egypt has also boosted the number of people flocking to Italy, with Florence, Rome and Venice the most popular destinations.

Last summer Mr Nardella ordered workers to hose down the steps of churches in the city centre to dissuade people from eating and drinking on them. Sceptics pointed out that in high summer the water quickly evaporated and the steps were dry again.

The Telegraph, London

See also: Overrun by tourists: Countries with worst 'overtourism' named

See also: Venice rip-off: Cafe charges customer $67 for two coffees, two waters

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