Tourists face €250 fines for sitting on Spanish Steps in Rome

Police patrol 18th-century marble steps, blowing whistles at visitors sitting down

The authorities in Rome have been accused of applying “fascist-style” measures after police began shooing resting tourists away from the staircase of the famous Spanish Steps.

Police began patrolling the 18th-century marble steps on Tuesday, blowing whistles at those sitting down. The monument, a Unesco world heritage site, has long been the ideal resting spot for tired visitors and holds a special allure at sunset.

But people could be fined €250 simply for sitting down on one of the 136 steps that lead up to the Trinità dei Monti church, and up to €400 for dirtying or damaging the steps in their wake.

The measure is among a number of rules reinforced by the authorities in early June, including a ban on “messy eating” by monuments, wandering around bare-chested, jumping into fountains, and dragging wheeled suitcases and pushchairs down historic staircases.

“Protecting a monument is fine, and obviously you shouldn’t eat on the steps, but the ban on sitting down is really excessive,” Vittorio Sgarbi, a controversial art critic and former deputy minister of culture, told AdnKronos news agency. “It seems to me to be a fascist-style provision that the municipality will be forced to review.”

A police officer tells a woman not to sit on the Spanish Steps
A police officer tells a woman not to sit on the Spanish Steps. Photograph: Gregorio Borgia/AP

“We agree that people shouldn’t ‘camp out’ and eat on the steps of monuments, as rubbish gets left behind,” said Tommaso Tanzilli, a director at the Rome unit of Federalberghi, the Italian hotels association. “But criminalising people for sitting down, especially if they are elderly, is a little exaggerated.”

Claudio Pica, president of Fiepet-Confesercenti, in Rome, said the rule was absurd and would drive tourists away.

The monument, designed by the architect Francesco de Sanctis between 1723 and 1726, underwent a €1.5m restoration in 2016, funded by the luxury jeweller Bulgari.

Similar measures are in place in Venice, with stewards patrolling the steps of the porticos that surround St Mark’s Square and other monuments throughout the summer. The exercise of moving people away is often futile, as unwitting visitors soon replace them. But authorities there do take tough action against those who flout the “decorum” rules: in July, two German tourists were fined €950 and asked to leave the city after being caught preparing themselves coffee on a camping stove on the steps of the Rialto Bridge.

And the rich and famous are not excluded from Italy’s rules. The newlywed German model Heidi Klum and her husband are reportedly facing a €6,000 fine for swimming in Capri’s Blue Grotto. The couple, who married on the island on Saturday, allegedly dived into the turquoise waters of the cavern from a yacht shortly before sunset on Monday. People can visit the grotto by boat, but swimming is strictly forbidden.

Ten ways to get in trouble in Italy

As Rome and other Italian cities continue their crackdown on “uncouth” behaviour, you might get in trouble if you do any of the following:

  • “Messy eating” or “camping out” on piazzas or the steps of monuments.

  • Singing, while drunk, on public transport.

  • Wrapping your mouth around the nozzle of a drinking fountain.

  • Walking around bare-chested.

  • Dragging wheeled suitcases and buggies down historic staircases.

  • Jumping into fountains.

  • Dipping your toes into a canal in Venice.

  • Feeding pigeons in Venice.

  • Building sandcastles in Eraclea, a beach town near Venice.

  • Wearing noisy shoes in Capri (wooden clogs have been banned since 1960).


Angela Giuffrida in Rome

The GuardianTramp

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