Gastro Flash Mob Descends On Rome In Sandwich War
words by Carol King
Locals took to the streets of Trastevere in Rome to eat pizza, sandwiches and ice cream in a protest against a new law banning the consumption of snacks in the city’s historic centre.
On 1 October the city council introduced fines ranging from €25 to €500 for people who stop to eat or drink “in zones which have a particular historic or architectural value”. The ordinance applies to tourist attractions including the Spanish Steps, the Pantheon and the Colosseum. The council says that the measure is to “guarantee the protection of areas of merit in the historic centre” in what the Italian newspaper ‘La Repubblica’ has dubbed “a war against the sandwich”. Tourists have been fined already.
The council and some residents hope the law will bring a sense of dignity back to an area that is seen as under assault by snacking tourists. They say people spill drinks, and leave behind crumbs and litter as they picnic on the stairs, steps and fountains of Rome’s historic monuments.
However, not all locals are in agreement with the measures and descended on the city’s cobbled streets to take part in the ‘Magna Magna’ flash mob organised on Facebook. Organisers called for people to go Piazza San Calisto eating a sandwich and drinking “a healthy glass of wine”. Protesters say they do not want Trastevere to become a static open-air museum, want social life to continue in the areas’ squares, and people to feel free to enjoy an ice cream on the stairs of monuments in the Capitoline Hill. They say that tourists cannot be expected to respect monuments that regularly fall down in pieces.
Mayor of the city Gianni Alemanno hopes that the law will bring decorum back to the historic centre. Protesters criticise him, asking how the new generation of inhabitants can live in harmony in a metropolitan space that has ever fewer green spaces because of ongoing construction instead of existing buildings being reused.
Various local restaurants and sandwich shops helped supply protesters with sandwiches and pizza to eat in what the Italian media has described as the first sponsored gastro flash mob. Some protesters were fined and there was a whip round among flash-mob participants to pay their fines. Bags were passed around to collect possible litter in what was a peaceful event. Whether the protesters’ actions have any effect in what is the first round of the sandwich war remains to be seen. Similar bans have been adopted in Venice, Florence and Bologna.