City under siege?

Florence sets up task force against deterioration

Editorial Staff
November 16, 2006

In the wake of the Florence flood’s 40th-anniversary celebrations, major social figures in Florence have alarmingly called the public’s attention to the city’s current state of degrade. Citizens, political figures, and even clergy members, have all declared that in the last 40 years, Florence has drastically changed for the worse. Recent outbursts of petty crime, vandalism, an ever-increasing number of tourists, litter and debris left in the streets, street robberies in daylight, sexual assaults, drug-trafficking and beatings in the city centre squares at nightfall as well as the damage done to several religious and artistic treasures have caused some to declare the deteriora-tion of Italy’s most important città dell’arte.

Take the Basilica of Santo Spirito for example, a basilica started by Brunelleschi in 1444, which is now permanently closed to pa-rishioners in the area because the head clergyman can not afford to pay for around the clock security. Just this past week, the basil-ica’s centuries-old door was sprayed with offensive graffiti, marking it the fourth act of vandalism to Santo Spirito in the last six months. The Cardinal of Florence, Ennio Antonelli, was among the first to publicly announce the seriousness of the issue at hand, asserting the ‘moral crisis of the city’s sense of community and identity.’ According to Cardinal Antonelli, the decency and respectabil-ity shown 40 years ago by Florentines during the flood has disappeared, and has given rise to widespread urban decay and the moral degradation demonstrated by the general public. Florence needs a renewed sense of creativity and solidarity, he adds.

In the last few days, two ex-mayors of Florence, Mario Primicerio and Giorgio Morales, have called for the creation of a special permanent task force, designed to combat the deterioration and decline of the historic centre, thereby improving the living conditions of its inhabitants. Recently, the city council has met in emergency meetings to discuss how the Public Administration can reverse the degradation process already underway in the city and has reached an agreement on several fronts. The city plans to repair the damage done to San Lorenzo, improve the illumination in Piazza dei Tre Re as a deterrent to crime at night, widen the sidewalk on Via Strozzi so cars will no longer be able to park there, and install a slew of new video surveillance cameras in high-risk areas of the city centre. For example, surveillance cameras monitoring the piazza in front of the Basilica of Santo Spirito will ensure that no further damage is done to this important religious and architectural monument. Surveillance cameras will also be installed in Piazza Indipendenza. More police officers will patrol the city centre at night, both on foot and in patrol cars, in order to ensure public safety and security. Although these efforts are definitely a step towards the betterment of Florence, perhaps what is needed the most are civic-minded citizens who have a role and voice in the administration of the city.

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