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Posted on 9th November 2016
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I had rather mixed feelings about this story on the BBC, until Sheryl reminded me about her experience of Florence.
The news story describes how the city of Florence (Italy) blocked the creation of a McDonalds "restaurant" (calling a McDonalds a restaurant is a bit of a stretch) on one of the city's most historic plazas, the Piazza del Duomo. Now the company is suing the city, claiming discrimination.
I can sympathise with the city wanting to preserve the culture of their city centre, and the cuisine available can be seen as part of that culture. There are, however, the matters of choice and convenience, for both tourists and residents; anyone who has visited Italy will have noticed that there are almost no restaurant options there except Italian food.
Sheryl, my fiancée, did the typical Eurorail tour of Europe before deciding to move here from the USA, and Florence was one of the places she visited (one of her least favourite). She arrived on an overnight train in the very early hours of the morning, and desperately needed a coffee, but nowhere was open. After waiting two hours, McDonalds eventually opened; Italy is famous for good coffee (and the coffee at McDonalds is rubbish), but all the local options for coffee opened much later, so she had to make do with what she could get. Then, after doing some sightseeing (and spending hours finding the hostel where she was booked to stay), she wanted some dinner, but again, because she wanted to eat too early (6 pm), there were no local restaurants open, and she had the choice of waiting for hours or going to (yes, you probably guessed already) McDonalds.
Like me, Sheryl is always eager to sample local food and wine when she visits somewhere (she surprised me with her adventurousness when we were in Malta), but it seems that Florence is just not geared up to provide local food if you are not willing and able to eat at a time compatible with the local customs. I therefore find it odd and disappointing that the city of Florence has blocked McDonalds from providing a choice that local businesses are not interested in providing.
Don't get me wrong: I am no fan of McDonalds. The coffee is dreadful, as is the food. It would be my very last choice for food (for breakfast, lunch or dinner). I do, however, want to have at least some option to eat when I need to for whatever reason, whether because I am too tired to eat later, or because I need to get to bed because I have a very early start the next day.
It seems that the city of Florence is not interested in making decisions to provide customer choice, and in adapting to the needs and desires of tourists and other visitors.