I recently had the extreme pleasure of visiting the always lovely but overrun with English-speaking tourists mecca, otherwise known as Florence. I confess, I hate to type that word about as much as typing Turin – Why, oh why, can’t we just use the Italian proper names for places? It would make finding the correct train track and eventual stop so much easier for first-time visitors. In any case, I found Florence’s young and remarkably pragmatic Mayor busily turning Florence into one huge gorgeous amusement park (sort of the antithesis of the American dress-down / eat-more versions, although I wouldn’t be surprised to find those gondolas zipping tourists from the rail station to the statue of David and across the Arno before long), making a marvelous Pedestrian Mall out of nearly every place with a piazza attached.
|A new sight to drink in in Florence|
As if pissing off the taxi drivers wasn’t enough, in his far-reaching vision, the City also erected in Piazza Signoria a small little black hut that most certainly has city center retailers turning red. Like the entrèe of the Reach™ toothbrush with its black packaging into the all-white pharmacy marketplace, this little black hut is a game changer indeed. You can walk up and be handed clear water, still or sparkling, bubbling right up there on the premises – for free. As the Mayor put it, (and as reported in The Florentine, an excellent English-language newspaper , but I paraphrase),
“It’s high time tourists are no longer regarded as pigs to skin – selling small plastic bottles of water for €3 each ($4.50). We’ll be saving on plastic, garbage pickup, and finally give tourists back something from the city."
It’s an excellent start, despite the bickering about the aesthetics, and has by some accounts already saved 60000 bottles in its first week of operation. I expect the hut to be burned down or reports stating the acqua is tainted to come out shortly, but in the meantime, Publiacqua has planted a shiny new bright yellow hut in nearby Prato.
They can afford to give the water away for free, because Florence is about to follow the footsteps of Rome in shaking down the unwary tourist with its “Tourist Tax.” Since it was found not to hinder arrivals in Rome, nearly every city across the country is about to employ their own. Again, our Mayor states, “Better this than taxing the residents.” Great. At least I believe that in Florence, unlike in Rome, the monies may actually go to improving some tourist services. But, when they start to reiterate that, “Tourists are finally contributing to trash collection and other services they use,” I go apoplectic. This is simply a bald-faced lie, my reasons for which you can read about here (click on grey area).
Italians are loathe to charge ‘ticket entrances’ to their fair cities, for fear it will turn the country into one big amusement park, but here we are. Look out Paris Disney. We already have centurions walking all around Rome, just like Mickey & Pluto, photo opps with Lorenzo De Medici or Leonardo can’t be too far behind.