- Ruling came into effect this week in bid to protect the city’s ‘typical culture’.
- Verona Mayor said food prepared in a certain way could impact ‘decorum’.
- Criticised by some who claim it discriminates against immigrants in Italy.
Italian city passes ruling limiting the number of “ethnic food” restaurants in the historic centre, saying it is concerned about protecting its cultural and culinary heritage in the wake of a boom in kebab shops.
Kebab shops and restaurants selling deep-fried food have been banned from opening in Verona.
Officials desperate to prevent the ‘decorum’ of the northern Italian city from disappearing have passed a ruling that also prohibits any new restaurants from selling ‘ethnic’ food after a rise in Middle Eastern cuisine.
Flavio Tosi, Mayor of Verona, said he hoped the ruling, which was implemented this week, would protect the ‘typical culture’ of the UNESCO World Heritage site.
“Thanks to this provision there will be no more openings of establishments that sell food prepared in a way that could impact the decorum of our city,” said Verona Mayor Flavio Tosi, who was elected as an independent after breaking from the far-right Northern League party he adhered to for years.
“This protects not only our historic and architectural patrimony of the city centre, but also the tradition of typical culture of the Verona territory.”
In the land of creamy cheese-smothered polenta and slow-cooked duck ragu, Middle Eastern kebabs, Greek gyros and take-away deep fried food typical of southern Italy are the unwelcome newcomers, an apparent culinary stain on the Verona’s cultural heritage.
Shakespeare set the story of star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet here in this quaint and romantic city, which boasts a stunning Roman amphitheater and 2,000 years of history, hence its designation on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Despite apparent growing demand for late-night kebabs, the city has been coordinating with the local diocese for years on a strict management plan to safeguard its Italian cultural values and traditions.
It is not alone. So-called “Unesco laws” are under consideration in a number of Italy’s top tourist destinations as local residents have become increasingly flustered by immigrant-run take-out eateries, service points and trinket shoppes they complain degrade their neighbourhoods.
Critics, however, say some proposals supposedly aimed at protecting Italian heritage effectively discriminate against Italy’s growing immigrant population, especially the country’s 1.6 million Muslims.
Earlier this week, Italy’s highest court nullified a regional law in Lombardy regulating religious buildings, which made it harder to construct mosques. With only six official mosques in the country, hundreds of make-shift “garage mosques” have cropped up as unofficial places of Islamic worship.
The laws, drawn up by the anti-immigrant Northern League party in 2015, required all places of worship to fit into the local architectural landscape and be operated only by religions recognised by the state.
City officials in Venice are considering restrictions to limit mini-markets, trinket shoppes, money transfer points and internet call centres that have proliferated in recent years and are often run by Chinese or Muslim immigrants.
“Some of this gimcrackery, especially when we don’t know even know where its made, is difficult to reconcile with the city,” said Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro, who complained that cheap souvenirs of dubious provenance are contributing to the “Disneyfication” of the city. “These are things that have nothing to do with our history and frankly create discomfort.”
Mr. Brugnaro said Venice will consider new commercial regulations like those that recently went into place in Florence’s historical center, with sharp restrictions on who can sell what where. In January, Florence slapped harsh new regulations on mini markets and strictly limited where fast food establishments, money change points, internet and phone call centres, bookmakers and massage centers can operate.
The city, which is the setting for three Shakespeare plays including Romeo and Juliet, was awarded World Heritage status due to the architecture, which includes a Roman military settlement and the Verona Arena.
The cathedral, which was built in the 12th century, and the Castelvecchio, from the 14th century, are also popular tourist attractions.
Nearly 80 million tourists are thought to visit Italy every year, making an estimated 190 billion euros for the country.