When in Rome!!

 

This article is of interest to me because I am going to spend a few days in Naples and two week in Rome in February. I always found Naples to be much more chaotic then Rome.  It will be interesting to see if the Romans will follow the rules. Good luck Mr. Mayor.

The following article appeared in The Wall Street Journal 

When in Rome, Follow the Rules, or So the Mayor Says
Marino’s Crackdown on Cafe Seating, Street Artists and Scooters Enrages Some Locals
By LIAM MOLONEY
Updated Jan. 20, 2015 2:10 p.m. ET

ROME—For a decade, Claudia Pizzuti, owner of Tre Scalini restaurant in Rome’s Piazza Navona, dished out pasta to tourists at some 35 outdoor tables, serving up the languorous meals and stunning views of the Baroque square that are the stuff of once-in-a-lifetime Roman holidays.

The fact that the tables—which spilled into the piazza—violated Ms. Pizzuti’s city license was of little concern to the restaurateur.

That was until Rome Mayor Ignazio Marino declared war on the rampant violation of rules governing outdoor tables that had spread willy-nilly over time.

“We had to do away with the insane invasion of the tables,” said Mr. Marino. “Do we care about the beauty and architecture of our piazzas, or not?”

Last summer, City Hall sent police to enforce the rules, compelling most restaurateurs to slash the number of outdoor tables and put the remaining ones into the perimeter set out in their license. Authorities even took to painting green lines demarcating the allowed areas to reduce squabbling with inspectors.

Today, patrons sit ear-to-jowl in a smaller clutch of outdoor tables at Ms. Pizzuti’s restaurant. But she still flouts the ban on gas-fired patio heaters and, when the police aren’t around, sticks a 5-foot menu stand back into the piazza. Meanwhile, she complains that scooters and trinket peddlers have flooded the space where tables once stood.

“Are the outdoor tables such a horrible thing?,” said Ms. Pizzuti. “Is this Rome’s real problem?”

The battle over outdoor tables is just one in a multi-front campaign Mr. Marino is waging to bring order to an unruly city that has at times blithely thumbed its nose at rules and regulations. He has taken on Rome’s burgeoning army of unlicensed trinket sellers, portraitists of questionable skill and swarms of scooters clogging up magnificent squares.

The result: the mayor is locked in a citywide version of Whac-A-Mole as he encounters lawsuits and protests to his beautification campaign. One poll, published in October, found him one of Rome’s least-popular mayors. Detractors brand Mr. Marino—a 59-year-old transplant surgeon who spent two decades in the U.S. and U.K.—“The Martian.”

“We will be unyielding” in cleaning up the city, said Mr. Marino in written answers to questions. “Of course, it’s nice to sip a coffee in a sunny square in front of a Baroque church or Renaissance palazzo. But it is just as important to stick to rules.”

The mayor was first struck by the degradation of Rome when an American friend asked how the city could allow a traffic-choked thoroughfare to pass so close to the Colosseum, which has grown blackened by soot in recent decades. Within a month of taking office in June 2013, Mr. Marino announced a plan to close the boulevard to private traffic—enraging the shops and restaurants in the area.

Since then, he has taken aim at other Roman institutions. For instance, he is forcing a storied group of souvenir sellers known as urtisti away from the Colosseum. The urtisti have a proud history, originating as Jewish vendors who received permits from the pope 150 years ago to sell religious items. But more recently, they have stooped to also selling trinkets such as bobblehead images of a shirtless Mario Balotelli, the Italian soccer star.

Mr. Marino is even challenging Romans’ love-affair with scooters, banning them from picturesque sites such as Piazza di Spagna, where he says they thronged sidewalks, blackened the buildings and marred the splendor of the square. In response, drivers staged a flash mob in October to protest the ban. Some still find a way to evade traffic cops by snaking through Rome’s back streets. Others exploit a loophole in the rules by pushing a turned-off scooter past an officer.

“They have so many things to do that they let their guard down sometimes,” says Stella Romano, who says Rome’s dilapidated public transport system means a scooter is the only practical way to get to her job in the center near the Trevi Fountain. The fines she receives have hardly deterred her.

A central problem has been a thicket of contradictory rules, city-issued exemptions and lax enforcement that have encouraged everyone from drivers of tourist buses to vendors of roasted chestnuts to do what they liked.

For instance, restaurateurs who planted unauthorized tables in squares and on sidewalks often just paid a fine to get seized tables back or bought new ones. When Francesco Taurino took over a restaurant in June off Piazza Navona, he crafted a business plan based on outdoor seating for 60—even though he had a license for a handful of al fresco tables. After the crackdown forced him to remove them, he says he had to fire more than half his staff.

“It is true that in the past things may have gotten out of hand, but now we have too many rules,” says the 27-year-old. “Too much has been done too quickly. Can’t we find a middle ground?”

Nearby, Mr. Marino’s dragnet has also caught up artists who have long sold their own works and whipped up portraits of tourists for as little as €10 ($11.80). In recent years, the number of artists in Piazza Navona had grown to double the number actually authorized, topping 100 by early 2014.

City authorities—who would like to use Piazza Navona to showcase promising young artists—complained that the artistic quality was lacking, and say some tourists felt cheated by artists fobbing off prints as original works.

So last spring, municipal police officers cleared out painters lacking authorization. The city then decided that remaining artists must present their work this year to a new committee made up of an art critic and culture authorities if they hope to keep their license.

The move has outraged older artists. “It will be total war,” says Mario Rosi, 55, who has been painting in Piazza Navona since 1988.

City officials say they won’t back down. “If those who have been in the piazza for decades are brilliant artists, they have nothing to fear,” says Orlando Corsetti, head of the city commission that handles business activities, including licenses.

Mr. Marino says he remains determined to force Romans to change their bad habits, confident that his campaign will win over the majority.

“We want Romans to enjoy the city and for tourists coming from across the globe to make it the trip of their lifetime,” Mr. Marino said in a statement.

Write to Liam Moloney at liam.moloney@wsj.com

 

 

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