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Author Topic: Italians Say Tourists Trashing Churches  (Read 1752 times) Average Rating: 0
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sinjinsmythe
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« on: July 31, 2003, 12:21:51 AM »

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Italians Say Tourists Trashing Churches
Wed Jul 30, 3:17 PM ET  
 

By FRANCES D'EMILIO, Associated Press Writer

ROME - Visitors can no longer use the splendid entrance at Rome's Basilica of St. Mary Major — it's sealed off because drunks and lovers had made it a hangout.


In Florence, Catholic officials complain that church steps are turning into latrines at night. Police in Venice plan to fine tourists for leaving lunch leftovers in the square outside St. Mark's Basilica.


Italy's churches draw millions of visitors each year, and anger is mounting over how some mistreat the nation's religious heritage.


Monsignor Timothy Verdon, on the staff at Florence's Duomo, or cathedral, held a news conference this week to denounce the lack of respect shown to that magnificent church.


"The millions of Italians and foreigners who come every year to admire the architecture and art and — many of them also to pray — must run through a kind of obstacle course," Verdon said.


He decried the dozens of souvenir vendors outside the cathedral's exit and the messy trash cans in the piazza, "which are already spilling over by midday."


Even worse, Verdon added, officials at several churches in Florence, a city renowned for grace and beauty, complain that the areas around their churches have been transformed into "open toilets."


"It's not the Florence you used to see, the drawing room of Europe," lamented Monsignor Angelo Livi, pastor at San Lorenzo church, the burial place of members of the princely Medici family and one of the churches cited in the cathedral's appeal for help.


"There's always more and more bums and tourists sleeping outside," Livi said in a telephone interview Wednesday. "The tourists sit on the steps and leave all the crumbs."


Buying a sandwich in a grocery store for lunch on a church's cool marble steps is a popular alternative to Italy's pricey trattorias and cafes.


Responding to the appeal for city authorities to clean up the mess around churches, Mayor Leonardo Domenici said Wednesday that Florence is no worse off than anywhere else in Italy.


Catholic officials in other cities have taken their own measures.


At St. Mary Major in central Rome, church authorities closed one of the basilica's two entrances a few years ago.


"We used to get all the drunks. There were even people making love," said Sandro Necciari, who works in the basilica's administration.


"Above all it was a rubbish problem. In the morning it was chaos," he said.


Rome used to "put a policeman there every now and then, but it's no good," Necciari added. "This is a Roman problem and think how many policemen you would need to guard all the monuments in Rome."


Italy's municipal and national budgets are chronically short of funds to care for the country's wealth of art and architecture.

Still, civil authorities in Venice plan to crack down outside the 9th century St. Mark's Basilica. They are posting signs warning that "people who picnic in the square and leave litter behind" will risk fines equivalent to $56.

"It's a precious place for all, and all have to preserve its beauty," said Federica Durigan, a city tourism official.

One place that has escaped tourist depredations is St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican (news - web sites).

St. Peter's Square sits in Vatican territory, and its spotless cobblestones reflect that special status. Visitors aren't allowed to sit down to eat in the square itself, although they generally are left in peace while eating sandwiches in the shade of Bernini's colonnade embracing the square.
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Keble
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« Reply #1 on: July 31, 2003, 07:34:49 AM »

I remember back in college when I was in the University of Maryland Chorale.  We did a trip through Germany, Czechoslovakia, and Austria.  We visited many churches and such along the way, and in most of them we asked carefully and were allowed to sing a couple of short pieces (Billings' "David's Lamentation" is the one I remember, but I think there was a second piece). We sang in many rare places: the orchestra stage at the Bayreuth Festspielhaus, the music room at Neuschwanstein, and of course most of these churches.

It was about a week before the end of the trip, on a Sunday morning, when we arrived at the Weiskirsche. Not surprisingly, there was a mass going on, so we crept into the back of the church, looked around very quietly, and crept back out. But not before we observed two things. First, there was an array of signs in the back (in several languages) asking the tourists to keep quite and not take pictures during services. Second, all of the touist around us (mostly German) were talking-- loudly. We were absolutely mortified, and when we got back on the bus Dr. Folstrom, the director, thanked us for being respectful and expressed his astonishment at the behavior of the others.

This was twenty years ago.
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Elisha
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« Reply #2 on: July 31, 2003, 11:45:49 AM »

the music room at Neuschwanstein

Sweeeet...

It is amazing how rude and disrespectful tourists can be.  Very sad.
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Hypo-Ortho
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« Reply #3 on: July 31, 2003, 12:30:33 PM »

the music room at Neuschwanstein

Sweeeet...

It is amazing how rude and disrespectful tourists can be.  Very sad.

True.  I don't know how the influx of tourists into houses of worship can be better regulated.   But if they aren't there to pray or at the very least to silently observe without littering, etc., then perhaps they just don't belong there at all!   Angry  Tourists know that they'd better behave better in museums or they're quickly evicted by the museum guards!

Hypo-Ortho
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Keble
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« Reply #4 on: July 31, 2003, 01:53:35 PM »

Washington National Cathedral does have its own security force.
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Frobie
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« Reply #5 on: July 31, 2003, 03:52:40 PM »

It is good to see the Italians doing something about it, even though it's only to protect "art" and "heritage." I remember in Costa Rica there was all sorts of nonsense that went on outside the cathedral in San Jose when I was at Mass.

Matt
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