Do not picnic on Florence’s church steps – or get wet

Sit down and get wet!

The mayor of Florence, Dario Nardella, has set out to discourage tourists from sitting and picnicking on church steps by hosing down said steps at lunchtime. If they are wet, the idea goes, people will not sit down.

This is the solution adopted to restore “decorum” to the main piazzas and the city’s prized churches where many visitors sit down to eat, often times leaving their trash behind.

The steps of the Basilica of Santa Croce, the burial place of Michelangelo and Galileo, was the first to be hosed down yesterday at lunch, followed by the Church of Santo Spirito, two of the main squares affected by visitors.

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

He continued but “there is a problem with respecting decorum. The majority of visitors are respectful and elegant but there has been an increase among those that 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 historic center, a UNESCO world heritage site, will also be hosed down as part of what is an experiment to see if tourists can be discouraged from sitting down and eating lunch on steps and sidewalks.

Most of the blame is on day-trippers to the city, especially those that arrive en-masse from cruise ships in the port of Livorno and just spend a few hours in Florence before departing.

People can walk around with a sandwich in hand, but the city wants to prevent them from camping out on the steps – and the solution adopted of wet steps is to discourage in lieu of imposing fines.

Florence attracts over 12 million tourists every year. The center can get very crowded during the summer and there are not enough benches in some places. I would advocate that more benches around the city center would be a step in the right direction, maybe also asking all sandwich vendor places to offer patrons seating areas.

Have you been to Florence and did you find a place to sit down? Did you sit in front of the churches you admired to rest or to eat? Do you think this is a suitable solution, or would fines work better? Share your thoughts below!