Venice, Italy — CALL them the slob police.
Officials in Venice -- as well as the handful of actual Italians still living in the lagoon city -- have declared themselves fed up with a certain category of tourist: the pot-bellied, bare-chested, food-chomping, trash-spewing hordes that peak from now until autumn.
To combat what they see as a scourge, Venice authorities are distributing leaflets and posting posters with a new set of rules.
In St. Mark's Square, it is now forbidden to sit or recline under the porticos and on the steps along the Procuratie Nuove and the Ala Napoleonica, the buildings that ring the city's iconic St. Mark's Square. And don't even think of stopping alongside the Doge's Palace to nibble on a panino, a gelato or another snack.
"It is forbidden to stop to eat or drink anywhere other than at tables set out by public restaurants," the leaflet says. "It is forbidden to litter or leave behind wastepaper, cans, bottles and any other type of solid or liquid waste."
Even the sale of takeout food, a staple for tourists, is being banned around St. Mark's Square.
The trash, pizza crusts and pigeon excrement that coat the square are of particular concern to city officials and others who maintain that the rubbish is ruining the site, one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country.
"I've been saying for some time that drastic measures are required," Augusto Salvadori, a senior tourism official, told the Italian daily newspaper Corriere della Sera.
The struggle over rules reflects the dilemma for popular tourist magnets. Communities crave and rely on tourist dollars, but at some point they feel overrun by the very visitors they've courted.
Such is certainly the case in Venice, where at times crowds are so thick that it's difficult to move through the city's winding streets.
To impose order, some city officials are even thinking of directing foot traffic through St. Mark's.
"[The tourists] walk like sheep," said Marisa Boffelli, an official with the town hall. "I sometimes can't even move; I'm stuck and am late getting to the office."
And so, for now, the "decency patrols," as the local press calls them, will enforce the new rules.
Violators who litter, eat in undesignated areas or loiter under impermissible porticos may be fined up to 500 euros, or about $675.
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The Square deal
Here are a few of the things the decency patrols have restricted in St. Mark's Square in Venice:
No bare chests.
No sleeping on sidewalks.
No camping out.