The Italian Almanac

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kissing in Florence

Italian News - December 4

Florence is to deploy a squad of hostess vigilantes to reprimand visitors who offend the authorities with casual holiday acts such as picnicking on church steps or, worse still, exchanging kisses inside. Leonardo Domenici, the centre-left mayor, is appalled by the behaviour of many of the 3m tourists who litter the city’s cobbled streets, stretch out idly in historic squares or surreptitiously dispose of their chewing gum by sticking it on the walls of museums they are queuing to enter.

“I don’t want to turn against tourists but Florence is an open-air museum and we have to protect her,” Domenici said. “What I want is a pact with both tourists and local residents to ensure that people respect Florence and behave in the street just the way they would behave in their own home. Young people have to realise they can’t lounge about in the squares and they shouldn’t kiss each other in churches; it’s not respectful. We need people to change their behaviour and that requires repressive measures.”

Under the scheme “hostesses” will appear in Florence’s most picturesque squares next month. They will have a dual role, both to help tourists and to tell them off if, for example, they take the weight off their feet by slumping on the steps outside the cathedral. “The girls will be beautiful and they will reprimand people in an elegant manner,” said Graziano Cioni, the councilor in charge of the new scheme. Working alongside them will be a force of 50 elderly male volunteers nicknamed “grandpa vigilantes” by the local press. The men, aged 65 and over, will patrol the streets and call in the municipal police by mobile phone if necessary.