For weary travelers in Rome, the Spanish Steps are officially off limits. The authorities started shooing tourists away from the steps on Tuesday, blowing whistles at sitters. The crackdown is a result of a number of new rules that also include “messy eating” on piazzas or the steps of monuments, dragging wheeled suitcases down historic staircases, and jumping into fountains. Violators face a €250 ($280) fine for sitting on the Spanish Steps, and fines of up to €400 (nearly $450) for dirtying or damaging the steps. A spokeswoman for Rome’s municipal police told the New York Times on Wednesday that no fines had been issued yet.
The Spanish Steps are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visitors to Rome have a long history of resting there, particularly to watch the sunset. The steps, leading up to the Trinità dei Monti church, were designed by the architect Francesco de Sanctis in the 18th century. The luxury brand Bulgari paid for a €1.5-million ($1.7 million), 10-month restoration of the steps in 2016, making some Italians even more protective of the site.
“You couldn’t walk around the Metropolitan Museum snacking on food and slurping a Coke,” David Sermoneta, president of the Piazza di Spagna Trinità dei Monti Association, told the New York Times. “We expect the same for the center of Rome.”
Others found the rule too restrictive. “Criminalizing people for sitting down, especially if they are elderly, is a little exaggerated,” Tommaso Tanzilli, a director at the Rome unit of Federalberghi, the Italian hotel association, told The Guardian.
Still, if William Wyler’s 1953 comedy Roman Holiday were set in the present, Audrey Hepburn would receive a sharp whistle blow for enjoying her ice cream cone on the Spanish Steps.