What is Florence becoming?

Since the many changes to the streets of Florence last Thursday, Iíve felt the city is a bit off. Some areas have become pedestrian, like via dei Tornabuoni and Piazza Pitti, and many streets have changed direction. The flow of traffic seems to have shifted and the streets somehow feel awkward to me. For the past few days, I have walked around the city and saw a lot of frustrated and lost people. Today when I walked down via dei Tornabuoni, I felt an emptiness that I have never felt before in Florence.

In Piazza Mentana where I live, I have been glued to my windows watching the police stop people to tell them to look at the new signs and to explain how to get to certain areas. Most of these people get turned around because the route theyíre used to taking to get to where they want to go has changed dramatically. It will certainly take time for the locals to get used to these changes.

I walked down via dei Tornabuoni from Palazzo Strozzi in the middle of the wide street and didnít feel the joy I thought I would. I missed the macchine (cars) and motorini (scooters) whizzing by. The marciapiedi (sidewalks) were virtually unused, and the street seemed empty because only a few people were even walking around. I felt like a small fish in the ocean. A few biciclette (bikes) passed by, but they did so almost aimlessly.

The most striking part for me was how almost all the shops were empty. It was only 7pm, but when I walked by a shop door I could see all the way through it to the people standing behind the counters looking back at me.

I personally donít understand the pedonalizzazione (pedestrianization) of certain streets because the city seems to be becoming more geared for tourists than for locals. Almost all the streets that have become pedestrian are now the areas that I tend to avoid now.

I would understand the pedonalizzazione better if it were done for the environment. If only electric buses, macchine, and motorini were allowed in the city streets. If that were the case, Iíd be ecstatic about all the changes, but making the touristy areas pedestrian while putting the burden on all the residential areas seems illogical to me. I heard the other day that about 20,000 locals left the centro (downtown area) last year. At this rate, in just a few years the city will have even fewer locals living in it, businesses will shut down, and more of the apartments will become holiday rentals.

Iím quite sad about the changes to my beloved city. The city I love and enjoy living in is becoming unlivable. I am wondering who is going to visit such a touristy city if the local flair continues to disappear. Certainly people will come to visit the museums and churches, peruse the amazing artwork and architecture, but the soul of the city is slipping away. Without the fiorentini, I wouldnít want to live here either. They are what make Florence beautiful, genuine, and joyful.

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