Who should enjoy Rome's famed Spanish Steps?
Rome’s famous Spanish Steps are a gorgeous photo opportunity, but weary tourists are no longer welcome to sit on them.
Police are now patrolling the 18th-century marble steps, asking people to leave and blowing whistles if they’re sitting too long, The Guardian reports.
People could be fined 250 euros ($280) just for sitting down on one of the 136 steps and as much as 400 euros (roughly $450) for damaging the steps in any way.
The new fines are among several new rules enacted by Rome earlier this summer. The new measures include no “messy eating” near monuments, no dressing as gladiators, no swimming in public fountains or walking around bare-chested, and no dragging wheeled suitcases up and down historic steps.
Elsewhere in Italy, Florence banned eating in the streets and Venice stopped letting cruise ships docs near the city’s historic center, reports CNN.
The steps underwent a year-long refurbishment that was finished in October 2016. When they opened, billionaire businessman and jewelry designer Paolo Bulgari — who contributed a reported $1.7 million to the revitalization work — was very vocal that he preferred if they were looked at rather than used.
NBC News reported:
“Restorers have done a great and difficult job. The steps were coated with anything from coffee, wine, chewing gum,” he told the Italian daily La Repubblica earlier this month.”But now I am worried. If we don’t set strict rules, the steps will go back to being used as a camping site for barbarians,” the billionaire reportedly said, adding that a gate or a Plexiglas barrier “doesn’t seem like an impossible task.”
But Rome’s superintendent of cultural heritage, Claudio Parisi Presicce, rejected the idea at the time, noting that the stairs were built for pedestrians to use as part of their stroll, and they’ll continue to be used that way. The steps are a UNESCO-protected monument.
“We agree that people shouldn’t ‘camp out’ and eat on the steps of monuments, as rubbish gets left behind,” Tommaso Tanzilli, a director at the Rome unit of Federalberghi, the Italian hotels association, told The Guardian. “But criminalizing people for sitting down, especially if they are elderly, is a little exaggerated.”
The steps were completed in 1725, a way to link the Trinità dei Monti church, which was then under French rule, with the popular Spanish square below. From there, the area’s reputation as a great meeting place was born. The vistas and angles were a magnet for artists, and their presence attracted many a young woman hoping to be a model, according to the World Site Guides. And the ladies, well, they attracted everyone else, from tourists to wealthy residents.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated with new information since it was published in September 2016.