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Beautiful European city being ‘crushed by tourism’ as traditional shops die out



One of Italy‘s most beautiful cities is being “crushed by tourism“, with its historic city centre now catering only for visitors, it has been claimed.

Florence welcomed almost 11 million people in 2019, according to an analysis by the Italian National Institute of Statistics (ISTAT) of accommodations throughout the peninsula.

The attraction this art city has on millions of people around the world is hugely beneficial to the tourism sector – but is changing the urban fabric of Florence, and particularly of its historic centre.

In order to accommodate the demand created by visitors, the unique – and small – city centre has seen an increase in restaurants, souvenir shops and Airbnb accommodations serving primarily tourists.

These structures have, however, often replaced more traditional businesses such as artisanal workshops that had been at home in the centre of Florence for centuries.  

Cecilie Hollberg, the director of the art gallery Galleria Dell’Accademia in the city, has been the latest to raise alarm bells regarding over-tourism forcing Florence to change and putting a strain on the daily lives of locals.

In an interview published in late January by the Corriere Fiorentino news outlet, Ms Hollberg said: “Florence is very beautiful and I wish it returned to residents and was not crushed by tourism.

“We can no longer find a normal shop, only places exclusively for tourists with gadgets and souvenirs, and this should be stopped.” 

After her words were criticised by the local government in Florence and politicians across Italy, Ms Hollberg explained she meant Florence “must become a witness for the whole of Italy of an ever-more conscious tourism”.

While many officials, including former Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, hit out at Ms Hollberg for her words, several people working and living in central Florence seemed to agree with the concept she expressed.

Speaking to local news website Firenze Today, Sara Ricci, owner of a shop in the San Frediano neighbourhood said: “Is Florence a city planned only for tourists? I’d say this is increasingly the case. It is not planned for people living in it. 

“The only businesses opening are restaurants, artisan workshops keep shutting their doors, even major historic shops. Rents are exorbitant and businesses linked to the territory die out.”

The news outlet noted that, within the 1.9 square miles of Florence’s historic city centre, there are around 2,000 businesses providing drinks and food as a service. On the other hand, many workshops for which Florence has been famous for centuries are now disappearing, sparking fears the artisan culture can no longer be passed down to younger generations.

Over-tourism in Florence is also having an impact on locals, with many residents no longer being able to afford living in the city or to put up with the large influx of visitors. 

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