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Tourists in Italy are misbehaving this year. These are some reasons


As travel restrictions eased this summer and tourists returned to Europe, the news of visitors misbehaving in Italy kept coming.

In Venice, tourists are fined and expelled for surfing the Grand Canal 0:56

(CNN) --

Swimming in channels protected by UNESCO.

Break into historical sites.

Drive down the most famous staircase in the world.

And just when you thought that was the worst: smashing priceless sculptures in a fit of pique.

As travel restrictions eased this summer and tourists returned to Europe, news of visitors misbehaving in Italy began to pour in.

In June, two American tourists caused $25,000 worth of damage in the Spanish Steps in Rome when they pushed and then threw their scooters.

Do you think that is bad?

In May, a Saudi visitor drove his rented Maserati down the travertine staircase, breaking two of the steps.

An image of the city of Venice.

Meanwhile, in Venice, tourists swim in the UNESCO-protected canals, which function as the city's sewage system.

In August, two Australians surfed the Grand Canal, while in May, Americans stripped down for a dip next to the 14th-century Arsenale monument.


That is all?

No: Also in August, an Australian decided to ride his motorcycle through the ancient Roman site of Pompeii;

while in October, an American smashed two priceless sculptures in the Vatican Museum, apparently after being told he couldn't see the pope.

Two months earlier, an American couple was caught carving their initials on the Arch of Augustus, a 2,000-year-old monument that stands next to the Colosseum.

But does this reflect a worse than usual situation, or have we simply forgotten how badly people behave when on vacation?

The number of international visitors from January to July 2022 increased by 172% compared to 2021 and even 57% compared to pre-pandemic records, according to ENIT, Italy's tourist office.

Eike Schmidt, director of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy's most visited museum in 2021, says bad behavior by tourists is nothing new.

"I don't think it will be any worse this year; I think what we have now is what we had in 2019, and it's back because the visitors have come back," he says.

"Certainly there are people who do not respect the situation they find themselves in."

Like the woman he saw before the pandemic sit in the middle of priceless works of art to get a pedicure.

The Uffizi Gallery is so heavily guarded that incidents rarely happen inside, says Schmidt;

but outside is another story.

The gallery forms a cul-de-sac for pedestrians, with built-in benches that are carved from the local

serenity stone

to seat tired and hungry tourists.

The problem is that they don't just sit.

Ignoring that these benches were carved by hand in the 16th century, they sit down to eat, spreading sauces on the porous stone, leaving stains on it.

They also paint graffiti outside the gallery.

In May, a tourist drove a Maserati through the Spanish Steps in Rome.

In 2018, Schmidt says, staff made a concerted effort to clean up every morning "all the marks that people were leaving on the buildings late at night after drinking too much."

He claims that policy paid off.

"People tend not to write on a clean surface, but if someone else has already drawn a little picture or written a bad word, (to add your own) it's much easier because the psychological barrier is lower. Now, rarely someone writes on the walls of the building. But what's come back after the pandemic is the problem of panini and wine and Coke and all kinds of greasy and sugary stuff. People buy it in places with no seating, look where sit down and the first thing they find are the monuments".

Last year, Schmidt called for fast food businesses to pay higher taxes than places that have seats and toilets for customers, but says: "Nothing has happened, none of the politicians want to enter the debate."

gondola robberies

Things are less calm in Venice, where municipal police have dealt with 43 incidents of tourists swimming in the canals so far this year, according to chief commissioner Gianfranco Zarantonello.

That's nearly double the total for the entire year of 2021, in which 24 swimmers were caught.

And, what is worrying, it is worse than the 37 cases of 2019.

There have also been 46 cases of tourists defacing Venice monuments so far this year.

"They are behaving as usual, only this year the numbers have returned to what they were before the pandemic and that also generates an increase in rude behavior," he says.

"Sometimes Venice doesn't look like a city. Tourists behave like it's the beach."

In May, an Italian visitor permanently damaged the Redentore church with graffiti.

Credit: Luis Brugnaro

And while at first glance the actions seem increasingly violent (a tourist stole a water taxi this summer and sped it down the Grand Canal), Zarantonello says extreme behavior is not new.

"A few years ago, a Russian tourist stole a vaporetto (water bus)," he says.

"People have stolen gondolas. Once they fell off (a stolen gondola) on New Years and when we got there, one of them was dying of hypothermia. We saved him."

In addition to swimming in the canal, so far this year Zarantonello and his colleagues have dealt with a Czech tourist who sunbathed topless at a war memorial, a Belgian riding a Vespa along the promenade (which is pedestrian ), two Australians touring the Grand Canal in eFoils, and an Italian from another region damaging one of the city's main churches with graffiti.

While Zarantonello doesn't think this has been made worse by the pandemic, Schmidt suggests: "It's your first trip in two years, you're young and alcohol isn't allowed in your home country, you're here for the first time and you may be on behavior you would be ashamed of at home.

"The result of the large number of visitors"

In June, two Americans threw their scooters across Plaza de España, damaging the monument.

Of course, the bad behavior of tourists is not a new phenomenon.

British, Australian and American tourists have long been known for their unsavory behavior in Southeast Asia, for example.

Tom Jenkins, CEO of the European Tourism Association (ETOA), says that there are a number of very specific incidents that occur in Italy, and it is due to its particularly sensitive fabric.

Italian culture with its more fragile environments and architecture as cities of art creates an explosive combination when you add visitors, he says.

"Italy is peculiar in the wealth of national tourist attractions, and it is unique in the sense that people occupy these spaces in a way that is not the case in many countries," he says.

Venice and Rome, he adds, are living cities where people coexist with cultural treasures.

"There is nowhere in France [the world's most visited country] that has such a sensitive heritage. And these cities receive 65 million international visitors a year, so it is not surprising that a small fraction behave irresponsibly." , It is not like this? "

Because the environment is so fragile, any damage is likely to affect a world heritage site, he says, while other countries have less heritage to harm.

"I think what we're seeing is a byproduct of the sheer volume of visitors and the terrible behavior of a fraction of the total number," he says.

"It's also possible that Italy attracts people who have a broader interest than mere artistic, architectural and archaeological curiosity, and these people don't necessarily fit into the environment."

That idea of ​​la dolce vita, that Italy is a place of freedom to let loose, doesn't do your heritage any good.

"A Place Without Rules"

Tourists want to emulate movies like "La Dolce Vita."

Credit: FilmPublicityArchive/United Archives/Getty Images

However, not everything is due to Italy's fragility, according to Italian experts.

We have not had similar stories occur in France, Spain or other popular European destinations.

Rather, they say, it is the way foreigners think of Italy that drives their bad behavior.

For film historian Nicola Bassano, films like "La Dolce Vita", Federico Fellini's 1960 classic, in which Marcello Mastroianni and Anita Ekberg jump into the Trevi Fountain to kiss, have created a false idea of ​​Italy in the Foreign.

"Italy is seen and judged by foreign tourists, and in particular by Americans, through the stereotypes embedded in movies, especially 'La Dolce Vita' and 'Roman Holiday'; and also through the image that they have made us thanks to (Italian) immigration," he says.

"It is seen as a place devoid of rules and laws, where everything is art and therefore nothing is art."

“Tourists do not know how to relate to artistic heritage because they have no relationship with our history, so they refer to their cultural imaginary, to our cinema.

The Trevi Fountain scene from 'Dolce Vita' has become a model to emulate," he adds.

“They do not distinguish between the Roman dressed as a centurion to earn tips and the Colosseum.

Everything becomes part of a show where there are no rules”.

Maria Pasquale, journalist and author of "How to be Italian," agrees.

The anonymity of travel lets out the worst of ourselves.

Credit: Pompeii Archaeological Park

"The world is in love with Italy and the Italian way of life is the trademark of the country," he says.

"In their approach to life, Italians have something intangible. It really feels like the coolest, most magnificent party ever organized: everyone wants to participate, but invitations are limited. Because being Italian is a feeling, it's hard to really express. And to be part of that party is to appreciate that this feeling is inspired by many things: the breathtaking sights, the sounds, the tastes, the smells, all of that. Italy as an idea, as an image is exciting, dynamic, seductive and intoxicating. foreigners an escape, it offers freedom," he explains.

“Many tourists have told me over the years that 'in Italy there are no rules'.

But they are wrong.

Of course there are rules.

But as someone who lives here and experiences the daily struggle with bureaucratic, economic and institutional instability I can tell you: sadly, there are often no consequences for those who don't follow the rules."

Jenkins agrees: "I think it should be seen that the authorities are doing something to prevent this behavior. The way they do it is questionable."

The mayor of Venice, Luigi Brugnaro, has constantly criticized on Twitter the limited powers that the authorities have to deal with "assholes".

Since many of those acts — like canal swimming — are classified as civil offenses, cities can only fine them and bar them from entering the city for a period of 48 hours.

Only in cases where the heritage of reference is damaged does a trial become an option.

holiday madness

However, why does bad behavior arise specifically in those who are on vacation?

For psychologist Audrey Tang, a member of the British Psychological Society, it is a situation similar to that of trolls on social networks: "We have a sense of anonymity. We are not known, and that gives us a little protection."

An additional element, he says, is the “Risk Turn”: the idea that groups goad each other into behaving in more extreme ways, ultimately doing things they wouldn't do alone or in their dreams.

"If you're there with friends, a 'risk turn' can happen: you may not even realize you're doing it, but you're in a group and everyone gets caught up in the excitement."

But it usually comes down to two things: practical and psychological.

Drinking on vacation "removes the filter we normally have; add the 'risky twist,' and we're doing something we'd never think of doing," he says.

"Jung said that we all have a dark side, and repressing it creates a pressure cooker that will explode at some point (...) The holidays give us permission to explode. And it may have gotten worse (since the pandemic) because we have been locked up by force."

What's more, he says, paying for a vacation unleashes a sense of entitlement.

"We forget that what we are entitled to is tied to social acceptability. And that we are part of a community. If everyone behaves the same as (offenders), it will be a problem."

Tourists swim in the canals of Venice and claim not to know that this is prohibited.

Is ignorance an excuse?

Sometimes tourists say that they did not know that what they were doing was not allowed;

that was the excuse of the Australian caught walking around Pompeii.

And, Zarantonello says, sometimes that's true.

When it comes to swimming or surfing in Venice, he says, "These are actions that are allowed in their own countries but prohibited here. So it's the kind of behavior that is considered legal."

Tang says that sometimes people don't check what the rules of a destination are before they travel.

Jumping in line, spitting in the street or even urinating are "totally inappropriate" in Europe, but are often accepted elsewhere, though she adds: "That doesn't excuse the behaviour, because we need to find the cultural situation on vacation."

Jenkins is less convinced.

"I think it's pretty obvious that you shouldn't ride a motorcycle around Pompeii. These guys are clearly idiots. People write their names on statues and break things since the dawn of time, but none of that is an excuse. It's abhorrent." .

Perhaps it is less about ignorance and more about a desire to achieve influence on the Internet.

As social media gains more and more control over us, we see more outrageous behavior, says Tang: "Bad behavior gets more likes, shares and notoriety than positive things, and many people use it to gain followers and have an impact. Something terribly wrong can be extremely effective in that regard."

Zarantonello observes this phenomenon a lot in Venice: “The actions are amplified by social networks”.

An English tourist, a university professor, tweeted a video in July of himself swimming down the Grand Canal and then fleeing from the police, in an attempt to emulate his hero, the 19th-century poet Lord Byron.

But attitudes like this, Zarantonello says, bring disrepair to the city Byron loved, so he begs them to consider his actions, even when it comes to something as seemingly banal as swimming in a canal.

"It's a matter of respect for the city. It's a place rich in history, it's not a pool or a beach where you can do all these things," he says.

"Byron was here 200 years ago. It would be better to read one of his poems than swim in the Grand Canal."

And self-proclaimed Italy fans better watch out.

When the busts in the Vatican Museums were vandalized last week, Mountain Butorac, who leads pilgrimages to Rome, told CNN he was worried there could be repercussions for everyone, not just the vandal.

After Michelangelo's Pietà sculpture was attacked by a Hungarian with a hammer in 1972, it was placed behind bulletproof glass.

Butorac fears this could be a sign of things to come: "One of the beautiful things is that (the museum) allows visitors to literally come face to face with these sculptures; my fear is that with these behaviors, barriers can be set up." ".

Source: cnnespanol

All news articles on 2022-10-15

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