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Whether you know them by virtue of Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck in the classic film Roman Holiday, or have seen them yourself, the Spanish Steps are one of the most famous landmarks in Rome. But as of 2019, a ban has been introduced to prevent tourists from sitting on the 135 steps, spanning from the Trinita de’ Monti to the Piazza di Spagna. A hefty fine of €250 awaits anyone spotted using the steps as a resting spot, enforced by whistle-wielding high-vis-wearing officials patrolling the area by day. Should anyone do damage or create stains on the staircase, the fine increases to €400.
The Spanish Steps Sitting Ban
Sitting on the Spanish Steps was banned after the area underwent a major cleaning and restoration project in 2016. The €1.5 million initiative was funded by the jewelers Bulgari, in celebration of their 130th anniversary. Reactions to the ban have varied. Some have denounced it as an extreme measure, while others welcome it as necessary to prevent damage to one of the city’s most iconic landmarks frequently subjected to wear and tear. But for anyone unaware of the measures, it could prove an expensive mistake.
This is just one in a number of surprising ways to get fined in Italy however (and if you find yourself taking our Welcome to Rome Tour, be sure to ask your guide all about it!). The Italian government has introduced a number of bans in order to protect important landmarks and historic monuments across the country; from jumping in fountains to snacking on streets – you’ll even find footwear restrictions in place in some areas!
Read More: The 8 Italian Places To Visit Before You Die
Things that Could get you Fined in Italy
Along with resting up on the Spanish Steps, there are plenty of other ways to get in trouble with Italian law. Luckily, we’ve compiled a handy guide to steer you straight!
1. Wearing Loud Shoes in Capri
The Island of Capri should be listed in the dictionary next to ‘ideal holiday destinations’. With sparkling blue seas and stunning coasts, it looks like a postcard come to life. It comes as no surprise that Capri gets its fair share of tourists: Everyone wants a slice of the calm, tranquil surroundings. However, this peaceful aura is something the locals want to preserve – at all costs. Noisy footwear – including squeaky sandals, flip flops and clogs – are banned on the island. And if you think that’s not enforced, think again. In 2010 a couple was fined £100 (each) for wearing excessively noisy footwear. So forget about high-heels and don’t say you haven’t been warned.
2. Frolicking in Fountains
Italy’s heat means fountains come as a welcome reprieve. Even the sound of rushing water can be enough to make things seem cooler. While most people would agree that jumping into the Trevi Fountain is ill-advised, Italian authorities are now clamping down on any kind of interactions with the country’s iconic fountains. Now so much as dipping your feet into the waters of a historic fountain could result in a €450 fine, like one elderly tourist discovered at the fountain of the Altare della Patria. This zero-tolerance policy comes after a skinny-dipping incident in the same fountain which sent ripples of shock through the country and outraged local residents.
3. Making Sandcastles in Eraclea
Whether you’re a cathedral sculptor or can’t manage much more than a misshapen tower, nothing says ‘summer’ more than building sandcastles at the beach. But you’ll have to think of alternative ideas if you’re planning to go to Eraclea. In an effort to enhance ‘public decorum’ Italian mayors have been given the power to enact a series of by-laws, one of which prevents sandcastles being built in the small city near Venice. Deemed to be an obstruction and a hazard to public safety, it goes alongside collecting shells as souvenirs. Which brings us to…
4. Sand ‘Theft’ in Sardinia
Cheap, light and meaningful, sand from a tropical destination seems like an ideal souvenir. But its popularity has created a deficit and in 2017, a ban was introduced making it illegal to take any sand from the Italian island of Sardinia. But this hasn’t deterred everyone: In August 2019 two French tourists found themselves facing up to six years in jail for allegedly attempting to take 40kg of sand home in their suitcases. Instead of risking a fine of €3,000, we can think of a few cheaper places to get some great Italian souvenirs.
5. Feeding Pigeons in Venice
A part of the city’s iconography, pigeons have taken up residency in Venice. A photo with one of the birds has become one of the quintessential markers of a trip to the Floating City. However, those images could soon be a thing of the past as a feeding ban has now been enacted in St. Mark’s Square among other spots throughout the city. It comes as an effort to counteract damage to monuments in addition to decreasing restoration and cleaning fees. Of all Italy’s bans, this one has perhaps provoked the most public outrage – and not from visitors, but locals, many of whom are angered that the vendors selling corn and pigeon-feed from nearby stalls are now being left without a livelihood.
6. Snacking in Florence
We all know that Italy is the home of fine food. The mere mention of Italian cuisine is enough to conjure images of rich ravioli and stuffed tortellini, not to mention creamy lasagna. With so many dynamic flavors, it’s a titanic effort not to indulge. But beware of munching in Florence, where a ban is in place to prevent snacking at certain times during the day. This is in effect on the four streets that run through the city’s historic center – Via de’Neri, Piazzale degli Uffizi, Piazza del Grano and Via della Ninna. In the afternoon between 12 – 3 pm and in the evening between 6 – 10pm, anyone caught eating could face a fine of up to €500. The solution? Breakfast later so you won’t get hungry during the peak hours – or take an evening stroll with Walks of Italy and discover some delicious gelato on our Welcome to Florence Tour! (We also have you covered for some handy tips on reading Italian menus).
7. Steaming up the Windows in Eboli
If Paris is the ‘City of Love’, Italy is the country of passion. Boasting Casanova and Romeo & Juliet among its citizens, the country has plenty of romantic spots. But anyone hoping to recreate Jack and Rose’s iconic scene in Titanic while in Eboli should think again. The quaint town in Southern Italy – renowned for its olive oils and buffalo mozzarella – introduced a ban on kissing in vehicles in 2011. A passionate embrace could now cost lovers €500, with police being stationed to patrol parks on the outskirts of town.
8. Going Shirtless in Venice
Italy isn’t exactly known for being one of the cooler holiday destinations. With temperatures regularly reaching up to 40° in the summer months, it’s understandable to want to cool off. But bear in mind fines are in place for anyone who chooses to go shirtless around Venice or Rome. Similarly, Venice has also banned wearing swimwear around the city center due to complaints of tourists wearing beachwear. Penalties for ignoring the ban can reach a scorching €3,000. Take it from us; better to spend the money on a new wardrobe instead.
9. Using a Love-Lock
If you’ve passed over a bridge in any major city in the last few years, you’ll probably know the practice of couples attaching ‘love-locks’ to famous monuments. A nice idea, in theory, but while the weight of one padlock itself is minimal, the weight of hundreds is considerable. The practice has placed an increasing strain on bridges and fences in cities around the world. In Italy, over 20,000 padlocks have been removed from the Ponte dell’Accademia bridge which spans the Grand Canal. A campaign called ‘Unlock Your Love’ is leading the charge in advocating for the removal of the locks placed on landmarks, emphasizing that love doesn’t need to be chained. Amen to that.
10. Brewing Coffee… Near Landmarks
No nation in the world takes coffee as seriously as Italians do. So in some ways, it comes as no surprise that when German tourists decided to brew coffee near the Rialto Bridge in Venice they found themselves in hot water. Though it may not be an explicit ban, locals called the police for fear it would damage the landmark and the two backpackers were hit with a €950 fine and immediately expelled from the city.
11. Picnicking in Venice
On a similar note, why you’d want to make your own food with Italian cuisine on your doorstep is beyond us. Nevertheless, as part of the ‘Decency Laws’, a ban has been placed on picnics in Venice in efforts to prevent litter and stains to the city’s monuments. The same is in place in certain spots across Florence and Rome, meaning picnicking near piazzas and historic landmarks is strictly off the table.
Read More: The Best Parks in Rome, Florence & Milan
Like it or loathe it, Italy is doing its best to future proof iconic monuments for the next generations to enjoy. Extreme? Perhaps. But with so many dazzling cities to explore and historic sights to see, we’re willing to walk between the lines for a glimpse at the ‘Bel Paese’.
And remember, with Walks of Italy you can always see the sights in the safe hands of an experienced, local guide – so you can’t go wrong!