Visitors to Milan’s Fashion Week will find ample clothing on the runway, but fewer food options on the streets. In fact, tourists to famed attractions in Northern Italy’s largest metropolis will find a broadly chillier welcome than they might have expected in the Lombardy capital.
As part of ramped up efforts to deter what Milanese officials call “anti-social behavior” among visitors, the city is banning food trucks, along with the mere possession of cans, glass containers, and selfie sticks. These prohibitions are slated to last through the summer, but city officials are retaining the option of extending them for much longer.
Milan is arguably following a recent trend of Italian cities vying for the dubious honor of “Most Odious Hospitality.” Lest they be considered “soft on tourism,” Florentine officials decided to hose down the steps in front of churches at lunchtimes to deprive hungry and thirsty tourists of comfortable places to sit. The Roman government, never one to be outdone, expanded its infamous ban on eating and drinking near fountains to a broad prohibition against selling or drinking alcohol at night. One might wonder if Roman lawmakers feared that vibrant nightlife might somehow usher in the fourth coming of Carthage, except the alcohol prohibition happens to exempt, by the strangest coincidence, the neighborhood where Rome Mayor Virginia Raggi lives—and only that neighborhood.
These Italian cities’ battles against the economic opportunity and success of their own residents may seem odd and even amusing. But unfortunately, they’re taking notes from a page made in America.
Food freedom is under siege in too many cities across the United States. Chicago has essentially banished food trucks from its lucrative business district. Baltimore maintains large “no-vending” zones and discriminates against mobile vendors based on what they sell. Similarly, Louisville severely limits where food trucks can operate in order to protect established restaurants from healthy competition. And in New York City, local officials are broadly at war with the Big Apple’s hardworking street vendors.
The Institute for Justice (IJ) is standing up for business owners and consumers in these and other American cities through its National Street Vending Initiative. IJ’s lawsuits and activism efforts have helped overturn previously burdensome bans and red tape on food trucks and other mobile vendors from San Antonio to Atlanta. Unfortunately for residents of and visitors to Italy’s major cities, IJ remains an exclusively American enterprise.