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Florence launches ‘How to Behave’ campaign

The famous fountain of Neptune in Piazza della Signoria, Florence. The ‘How to Behave’ campaign is aimed to respect landmarks around the city.

The famous fountain of Neptune in Piazza della Signoria, Florence. The ‘How to Behave’ campaign is aimed to respect landmarks around the city.

Less than a month after Venice launched its #EnjoyRespectVenezia campaign aimed at changing tourist behaviour through fines, encouragement and a little bit of public shaming, Florence has followed suit.

Tourism chief Anna Paola Concia unveiled a new campaign #EnjoyRespectFirenze with a stern warning to tourists that visitors to the city must not only help preserve its heritage, but also “respect the Florentines who live in it”.

This is a call to respect the city, its history, its art and its inhabitants.

“We want to defeat the common idea that people coming to Italy can do whatever they want,” she said at a press conference. “We’re at the point where we have to make it clear that they must behave as if they’re in their own home, that Florence is one of the most beautiful cities in the world and must be conserved and that the tourists have this responsibility as well.”

Unlike the Venice campaign, which seeks to encourage tourists to behave better, as well as tell them what not to do, the Florence initiative is purely prohibitory. Visitors are instructed not to deface their surroundings, dump trash, buy counterfeit goods or sit anywhere but benches and public seating areas. Tourists squatting on church steps to eat or drink have enraged Florentines to such an extent that, this summer, the authorities took to hosing them down to put an end to it.

The campaign is absolutely necessary – Italy has been invaded by mass tourism

Perhaps appropriately for an initiative geared towards tourists, the council has produced souvenirs, including T-shirts, mugs, keyrings and tote bags with some of the offending behaviour printed on them – which will be distributed to hotels, restaurants and tour operators and doled out for free to tourists. The stick figure cartoons on the items – illustrated with social media-style thumbs up and down – have the potential to become cult possessions.

The four scenarios selected for the campaign illustrate the “main problems” faced by the city, Concia told Condé Nast Traveler. “Sitting in public places, littering and buying counterfeit goods aren’t the only ones we have by any means, but they’re certainly the principal ones,” she said. One of the pictures shows Michelangelo’s David coated in red paint; although that may not have happened (yet), it’s probably not far off. “They write on the monuments,” Concia said. In another illustration, figures sit on a bench in front of Santa Maria Novella church with their arms raised, Rocky-style; beside it, figures nonchalantly perched on church steps get a thumbs down.

The initiative will be a permanent “sensitisation” campaign, designed to increase awareness, said Concia, just like the hosing down of the steps. “That did the rounds of the world and put the spotlight on our problems with tourism,” she said.

The campaign will be pushed online, through social media and via tourism partners both in Florence and abroad. There are also plans to project the images on landmarks around the city.

Florentines seemed largely happy with the news, especially in the light of the Venice campaign, which took off around the world.

“The campaign is absolutely necessary – Italy has been invaded by mass tourism,” tour guide Lucia Lazic told Condé Nast Traveler.

“The geopolitical situation here has changed and so has the type of tourism, so it’s really important that tourists behave appropriately. Large groups come to Florence for two to three hours, they eat an ice cream, and then they sit on the ground or on church steps, leaving dirt in their wake,” she said.

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