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Italian city bans foreign flavors


Magictofu
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I just read an intriguing article about the city of Lucca in Tuscany which declared a ban on non-Italian restaurants in its historical center. It can be found here.

The walled, medieval bastion of Lucca, in the heart of Tuscany, wants no more of the kebab shops and Chinese restaurants that have sprung up along the cobbled streets of its centro storico, or historic center.

Lucca, a tourist hot spot that lies 40 miles from Florence, has declared a ban on the opening of any more "ethnic" food outlets in what it says is a campaign to preserve authentic Italian – or more specifically, Tuscan – culinary traditions.

I understand the rationale to preserve a place based culinary culture in the same way that I understand the preservation of historical neighborhoods and buildings. I even believe that the two can go hand in hand in a small section of a city (e.g. Lucca's historical center). On the other hand, the idea of legislating these things is slightly repulsive to the other side of my brain and I would probably turn to activism if such a ban were to affect a whole city.

What do other eGulleters think about this idea?

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There is a lot more to this issue than most mainstream international press has covered thus far. This has everything to do with the consequences of unsustainable development-tourism. Some communities are learning by their own mistakes or the mistakes of others and attempting to curb the destruction of their cultural-natural heritage before it's too late. Unfortunately, it is too late for many communities across the globe.

Granted, the public authorities in this particular case may not be handling this as best as they could. This could be due to lack of training in implementing sustainable tourism programs and conveying the reasons for these crucial decisions. But they are responding to their citizens' requests. People who do not live in Lucca and are not informed of the whole situation are in no position to offer suggestions or opinions on this matter. Unfortunately, many have already (with a very pro-globalization stance) and they might be the first to complain that they cannot find gelato in Italy any more.

Cultural-natural heritage preservation is crucial in many places around the world (including Italy) where a large percentage of the population is involved in artisan food production and tourism to support themselves. Last I checked, 1 in 9 citizens of Italy are employed in the tourism industry. That does not include the many businesses that rely almost solely on tourism to make a living. If they wait until their regions are paved over by natural-resource-sucking generic resort hotels and their historic sites are obstructed by KFC billboards and McD arches, it's too late.

Once communities allow globalization to wipe out the very thing that makes them distinctive, they risk becoming prisoners in their own *popular destination* which will no longer be livable or enticing to visitors. People need to be much more aware of the consequences of their travel choices, expectations and uninformed opinions of *foreign lifestyles.* Otherwise, they should simply visit Vegas or Orlando and let the rest of the world population live as they choose.

For info on sustainable/responsible tourism, see for starters:

Sustainable Travel International, ECOCLUB.com, National Geographic Adventure's Blog entitled *Beyond Green Travel.*

Nikki Rose

Founder and Director

Crete's Culinary Sanctuaries

Eco-Agritourism Network

www.cookingincrete.com

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I do agree with Nikki Rose on many things and we probably need to stress that the ban is limited to the historical center of the city and not to the municipality as a whole.

There are other policy tools that can be used however such as tax exemption for certain types of culturally significant institutions (old or new), by-laws on advertizing, acreditation systems with associated publicity, etc.

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As one dealing with the preservation of ethnic foods I can understand the reasons behind the ban but I still think it is wrong. Food is not only about preservation but it is also very political and even a discussion over the origin of Baklava can turn pretty ugly. In my opinion, this is going to backfire and will not achieve it's longtime goal. Another method should be used, incentives perhaps, advertisment, public awareness campaign, but not a ban. I wonder how such a ban would go down in another city, like Jerusalem or Paris, there will be tires burning I am sure (if there are not already).

Edited by melamed (log)

Cheers, Sarah

http://sarahmelamed.com/

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To quote 'MagicTofu'

" we probably need to stress that the ban is limited to the historical center of the city and not to the municipality as a whole. "

Let me comment on this note.

About 30 or more years ago MacDonalds opened a Restaurant in Freiburg, Schwarzwald (Black Forest) Germany. Right downtown City Center, and no less in a historically protected edifice. The building actually being one of the last remaining city wall towers from medieval times. Since the ground/street floor of this tower had been used for many years for commercial businesses no objection by city fathers nor the public.

But, here is the big BUT: " NO ARCHES on the tower itself " only a small sign in it's typical red and yellow pointing to the entrance.

Peter
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I'm conflicted on this one. I would personally draw the line at fast food and convenience establishments, but disallowing anything that isn't explicitly Italian? Sounds like it's going too far. However, I do understand that there's importance and value to preserving Tuscan heritage foods, but would a high-quality Thai restaurant (for example) really have a deleterious effect on these traditions?

Further, food traditions aren't developed in a vacuum, and it's wrong to assume they will not continue to grow and change. Interplay between cuisines and conditions is, to my fusion-happy mind, not necessarily a bad thing. Can fusion and the "real deal" exist side by side without one suffering? Can't answer that.

Of course, weighing "good" change in food and eating habits and "bad" change...ah, there's the rub.

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To quote 'MagicTofu'

  "  we probably need to stress that the ban is limited to the historical center of the city and not to the municipality as a whole. "

Let me comment on this note.

About 30 or more years ago MacDonalds opened a Restaurant in Freiburg, Schwarzwald (Black Forest) Germany. Right downtown City Center, and no less in a historically protected edifice. The building actually being one of the last remaining city wall towers from medieval times. Since the ground/street floor of this tower had been used for many years for commercial businesses no objection by city fathers nor the public.

But, here is the big BUT: " NO ARCHES on the tower itself " only a small sign in it's typical red and yellow pointing to the entrance.

In Quebec City, where I grew up, a McDonalds is located in an historic neighborhood within a fairly old building. No arches or orange color in sight there either.

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I'm conflicted on this one. I would personally draw the line at fast food and convenience establishments, but disallowing anything that isn't explicitly Italian? Sounds like it's going too far. However, I do understand that there's importance and value to preserving Tuscan heritage foods, but would a high-quality Thai restaurant (for example) really have a deleterious effect on these traditions?

Further, food traditions aren't developed in a vacuum, and it's wrong to assume they will not continue to grow and change. Interplay between cuisines and conditions is, to my fusion-happy mind, not necessarily a bad thing. Can fusion and the "real deal" exist side by side without one suffering? Can't answer that.

Of course, weighing "good" change in food and eating habits and "bad" change...ah, there's the rub.

This is exactly why I feel conflicted as well.

The problem, in my mind, also relates to the museification of cities in that in order to preserve what makes a city special we often forget that people live in it and prevent it from developing... ultimately what we once wanted to preserves ends up dying because of our own actions. There is great difficulty in delimitating what needs to be preserved and what needs to continue its course.

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I'm conflicted on this one. I would personally draw the line at fast food and convenience establishments, but disallowing anything that isn't explicitly Italian? Sounds like it's going too far. However, I do understand that there's importance and value to preserving Tuscan heritage foods, but would a high-quality Thai restaurant (for example) really have a deleterious effect on these traditions?

Further, food traditions aren't developed in a vacuum, and it's wrong to assume they will not continue to grow and change. Interplay between cuisines and conditions is, to my fusion-happy mind, not necessarily a bad thing. Can fusion and the "real deal" exist side by side without one suffering? Can't answer that.

Of course, weighing "good" change in food and eating habits and "bad" change...ah, there's the rub.

This is exactly why I feel conflicted as well.

The problem, in my mind, also relates to the museification of cities in that in order to preserve what makes a city special we often forget that people live in it and prevent it from developing... ultimately what we once wanted to preserves ends up dying because of our own actions. There is great difficulty in delimitating what needs to be preserved and what needs to continue its course.

Well said.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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I'm conflicted on this one. I would personally draw the line at fast food and convenience establishments, but disallowing anything that isn't explicitly Italian?

Sorry for quoting you, Faine (nothing personal :smile: ), but I this will help me make my point. The ban is not directed towards things that aren't explicitly Italian, in fact the ban is directed to new pizzerias on the go (pizzerie al taglio), fast food joints, ethnic take-away-restaurants, supermarkets and also shops selling sailing equipments and sex shops ( :rolleyes::laugh: )

So if I wanted to go to Lucca's 4-km-square city center and open a new pizzeria al taglio , I couldn't do that and last I checked pizza is Italian - but I guess the press found it a lot easier to sell a piece of news saying that ethinc restaurants are now banned

Press release from the Municipality of Lucca here

Edited by Alessia (log)
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You right Alessia

Sonno tutti scherzi

Consiglio comunale: approvato il regolamento sui pubblici esercizi
Tagliasacchi (Ulivo- Pd) richiede un ulteriore approfondimento, "poiché si tratta di una questione di grande rilevanza per la città."
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The New York Times has an article on this very issue here.

It contains some very interesting comments:

All the fuss has been good for business, said Mohammad Riaz, the Pakistani owner of Doner Kebab Casalgrande in downtown Lucca. The shop is particularly popular with students. As he ordered a kebab, Alessandro Tucci, 22, said he opposed the ban. “It’s ridiculous,” he said. “People should have the freedom to cook what they want.”
Standing behind the wooden counter of the upscale bakery that has been in his family for five generations and specializes in “buccellato,” a round anise-flavored bread, Marino Tadeucci, 24, said he agreed with the ban “to a certain extent.”

But he found it strange that the city would ban fast food yet allow shops selling underwear and plastic knickknacks.

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