I guess I really should be writing to Mayor Renzi (and maybe I will after I get my thoughts together on this), but I wanted to put it down here first - a discussion (complaint?) of a what to me is a major problem with Florence as a tourist city:
Dear Florence, we need more places to sit!
Since my arrival here in 2005, Florence has become less and less hospitable to people who need a place to simply sit down in public. From the cordoning off of the steps of the Palazzo Vecchio with planters, the arbitrary roping off of the steps of the Duomo, and now, after what seems to have been a half baked and poorly executed renovation of Piazza Santa Maria Novella (breaking or broken benches and dead, poorly installed grass), the enclosing of the lawn spaces there with thorny bushes - no doubt chosen to keep people off the grass.
In a small, walkable city (a place that almost demands you to walk as it becomes more crowded and more and more streets are closed to traffic) the option to just sit down somewhere for a minute is going in the wrong direction. In the very center, where most tourists (and Italians who work there) actually spend the bulk of their time, the opportunity to simply sit down has been greatly decreased in the last few years, where an increase is what is obviously needed. I can think of only a couple of benches added to the rear of the Duomo, and the base of the column in Piazza Santa Trinita as "new" places to sit, while those listed above have greatly decreased the chance to sit down for a break (or worse - to picnic!).
Especially grievous is the new loss of the lawn in Piazza Santa Maria Novella. I would guess that this has been an open space for at least a thousand years, and yet someone, somehow, in 2013, has decided to put a barrier of thorny bushes up so people can no longer access the lawn (as if this will work anyway - it is an open invitation to end up with a messy hedge full of holes!). Considering it
iswas the only open green space in the very center of the city (Piazza San Marco has some very small patches of grass, and Piazza dell'Indipendenza is not really in the "tourist" center) where you could actually sit or lie down on grass, tourists and locals alike have just suffered a major loss.
Someone in the city administration needs to start thinking about these issues, of giving people in Florence a chance to sit down, and the trend of taking spaces away from the public and public use needs to be reversed.