(Florence) Florentine goldsmith Tommaso Pestelli was forced out of his workshop to make way for a luxury hotel, but advocates say he is yet another casualty of mass tourism in the Tuscan city. , there is a risk of losing one’s soul.

Last month, the German director of the famous Accademia Gallery called for urgent action to protect the UNESCO-listed city center after he made a shocking declaration that Florence had become a “prostitute”. The voice rose.

Approximately 1.5 million tourists visited this jewel of art and architecture last summer alone, an increase of 6.6% year-on-year. On the other hand, more and more stores and residential apartments are being converted into “fast food” restaurants or his Airbnb.

“We’ve been in business since 1908. If you exclude us and many others like us, you take away part of the soul of the city,” said Father and Grandfather. , says Tommaso Pestelli, whose great-grandfather was a goldsmith.

Pestelli, 55, managed to find another small workshop nearby, but many other artisans are not so lucky.

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According to official statistics, the average cost of housing rent rose by 42% between 2016 and 2023, and the number of apartments listed on Airbnb increased from about 6,000 to about 15,000. Even in February, tourists line up in front of the cathedral and crowd around Michelangelo’s statue of David.

With the displacement of residents and the disappearance of traditional shops, “Florence is becoming an empty box,” Pestelli warns.

For Elena Bellini, 47, who sells works by local artists, the lack of residents isn’t just slowly destroying life in the neighborhood. It leads to an increase in delinquency, especially robbery.

In the jewelry store window it says: ”.

Airbnb ban

This case is not limited to the Tuscan capital.

Popular tourist destinations such as Venice and Cinque Terre in the northwest of the country have also seen residents forced out due to astronomical rents and encroachments on tourist sites and souvenir shops.

While Venice is experimenting with a ticket system in which day-trippers have to pay an entrance fee during high season, Florence’s centre-left city council has launched a campaign to lure tourists away from the centre.

People are increasingly looking for “experience-based routes” and the city is trying to promote other points of historical and artistic interest related to nature exploration and gastronomy, said deputy mayor Alessia Bettini. He explained to AFP.

The number of visitors to surrounding villages, castles and monasteries increased by 4.5% in January, and the number of hikers venturing on the Path of the Gods across the Apennines to Bologna increased by 22% last year.

The City Council also sought to free up housing for local residents and prevent further rent increases by banning new short-term private vacation rentals in the historic center. The bill, passed in October, also provides tax breaks for landlords who return to fixed-term rentals.

“One world disappears”

Despite the ban, around 10 artisans are being evicted from their workshops in buildings near Ponte Vecchio as part of a tourism development project.

“The Florentine goldsmith tradition is rapidly disintegrating,” Tommaso Pestelli laments.

A few blocks away, Gabriele Masselli, president of the Florence Historical Business Association, hand-painted in a gold frame, and a shelf behind him was lined with brightly colored pots and powders.

A large cross hangs on the wall, and nearby restorers are working to restore the shine to a damaged painting.

“People come to Florence for high-quality products that are handmade with great care,” explains Gabriele Masselli, 58. “If a company is forced to close, the entire production chain is affected. It closes the entire world and disappears forever.”

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