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As tourism returns with a vengeance, some destinations are swiftly becoming overwhelmed.
Hot on the heels of Taiwan becoming a “living hell,” one city in Italy has introduced a one-way system in one of its most popular tourist streets. Not so unusual, you might think – but this is a one-way system for pedestrians, such is the number of visitors.
Via San Gregorio Armeno, in Naples, has always been one of the most popular spots for visitors. For centuries, artisans have made presepi, or Nativity scenes here, and the narrow street has displays on either side of not just presepi but also other figurines, plus figures of footballers and even politicians.
But with Naples experiencing a tourist boom this year, the tiny street is overloaded with visitors – particularly now, in the run-up to Christmas.
The council has introduced a one-way system to the street, which has been pedestrianized for over a decade, citing public safety as “dangerously compromised.”
The area of the “decumani” – the ancient Roman roads, which the modern city still follows today – “suffers from pedestrian congestion, especially in the Christmas period,” the council said in a statement released to CNN.
The streets are “mainly without sidewalks and are visited by high numbers of tourists in the Christmas period, especially the ‘shepherds’ street,’ San Gregorio Armeno,” they continued – leading to “situations of exceptional crowding, because of the vast foot traffic.”
The council calls it a “risk for public and private safety, compromising minimum safety standards… dangerously compromising the safety of citizens, who are sometimes literally trapped within the crowd without being able to get out.”
The street implemented the one-way system, overseen by police, for the first time at the weekend. It is running again from December 7-11 and then from December 17-23, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. On Christmas Eve, the system will be in place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Instead of spilling down from main drag Via dei Tribunali (San Gregorio Armeno goes downhill), visitors will need to start at the bottom, on Via San Biagio dei Librai – the street otherwise known as Spaccanapoli.
In case of severe overcrowding, police may bar access to the street entirely, by blocking off a section of Via San Biagio dei Librai.
The overcrowding in the historic center of Naples has become more pressing since the pandemic. In 2019, the authorities announced that they were planning to bring in the one-way system should crowding hit a certain level.
It operated in 2020, when social distancing was required, and was renewed for 2021, when restrictions were still in place. But while Italy’s social distancing rules have now been relaxed, the number of visitors means the system must stay.
Naples has seen a rush of tourists this year. The first weekend of December, which should be relatively low season, saw the city’s hotels at 80% occupancy, according to local paper Il Mattino. For this week’s public holiday, on December 8, the city looks set to sell out.