Tuscany is about to become a dog-owners' paradise, with a new law allowing pets into art galleries, theatres, restaurants, cinemas, post offices, museums and beaches.
The law, which is due to come into force by June, reverses a longstanding ban. Fabio Roggiolani, head of the regional health commission, said: “We are knocking down the barriers that separate Man from his best friends. Most people in Tuscany agree with this measure, which is in line with regional regulations forbidding discrimination or cruelty against domestic animals.”
To protect public health and hygiene, pets will have to have a veterinary health certificate, and dogs must be muzzled if necessary. Owners will have to guarantee that their pets will not disturb public order.
Mr Roggiolani said that “for obvious reasons” dogs and other pets would still be banned from the Teatro del Maggio Musicale, the Florence opera house. “We have to apply a bit of common sense.”
Roberto Santini, who runs a beach concession at the Tuscan resort of Forte dei Marmi, said that many of his clients had dogs, including Massimo Moratti, the president of Inter Milan football club, who often cut his holiday short because he could not bear to leave the dog behind.
Fulvio Pierangelini, an Italian celebrity chef, said that he was relaxed about allowing pets into his restaurant at San Vincenzo on the Tuscan coast provided they behaved properly, adding: “Mind you, I draw the line at cooking for them.”
Franco Zeffirelli, the opera and film director, who has four dogs, said that the move “rewards the dignity of Man's best friends”. He added: “Dogs and cats are rather like small children - they should stay where they are happiest. I would never take my dogs to La Scala. It would be torture for them.”