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Last Updated: Saturday, 9 August, 2003, 19:01 GMT 20:01 UK
Italian cities to fine 'messy' tourists
Tourists in Florence and Venice have been banned from sitting anywhere they like after officials decided that visitors needed to behave with more decorum around their historical sites.

From Saturday, Florence and Venice have started fining people who sit down on the steps in front of their churches.

A police officer chases tourists sitting on the steps of Santa Maria del Fiore Basilica in Florence
Sitting on the steps of churches is now a thing of the past
The 50-euro ($56) fines apply to the areas around Florence's cathedral, the Duomo, and the Basilica of St Mark in St Mark's Square in Venice.

The measures follow the imposition in Venice earlier this month of a code of conduct for tourists.

Signs went up on Saturday morning in front of the multicoloured marble walls of the Florence cathedral saying: "Sitting or lying down prohibited."

"With this operation, we are asking tourists to co-operate in maintaining decorum in the most busy and fragile area of the city," Venice police commander Francesco Vergine said in a statement.

Millions of tourists flood through Italy's art-filled cities every year.

But anger has been mounting recently over how some mistreat the nation's heritage, and in particular churches.

Last month, Monsignor Timothy Verdon, of Florence's Duomo, said the area outside the famous church had become "an open toilet" at night.

He accused city officials of neglecting the religious sites, saying those who wanted to enter the church to pray had to run an obstacle course of squatting tourists and souvenir sellers.

The remarks prompted a national debate in Italy and many calls for tourists to be made to behave properly around the country's many famous churches.

Venice lays down the law
01 Aug 03  |  Europe

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