Exasperated by tourists who frolic in Rome‘s public
fountains, vandalize its monuments and treat its landmarks as their own
personal living rooms, the city famous for its artistic heritage and easy-going
lifestyle has had enough.
The Italian capital’s first populist mayor, Virginia Raggi,
presented a law banning bad behavior including eating or drinking or climbing
on monuments, walking around partially unclothed and wading through fountains —
the latter temptation made famous by Anita Ekberg, who danced in the city’s
magnificent Baroque Trevi Fountain in Federico Fellini’s classic film
immortalizing Rome‘s carefree spirit.
While many of the measures already existed in temporary form
or were rarely enforced, a unanimous city council vote on Thursday night made
them permanent. And there’s a new twist: disobeying these rules means local
authorities can exile the badly behaved from the city’s historic center for 48
“The Rome city center is an area protected by Unesco,
so clearly our center is our business ticket,” Raggi told the AP in an
interview in which she promised “zero tolerance for those marring our
Florence last year issued an ordinance calling for fines as
high as 500 euros ($575) for visitors who eat on sidewalks or in doorways at
meal times near its landmark Uffizi Galleries. Venice in the past has banned
tourists from eating in St. Mark’s Square unless they eating or drinking at the
square’s pricey cafes.
“We don’t want people to take a bath, or ruin or dirty
monuments anymore,” Raggi said from a terrace above her Capitoline Hill
office overlooking the ancient Roman Forum and Colosseum and their steady
streams of tourists.
Raggi wouldn’t talk politics. But this spring, Matteo
Salvini, the fast-rising leader of the rival populist League Party, which is
widely expected to go for the Italian capital’s City Hall in the next local
election, trashed her management, saying Rome had never been dirtier.
Earlier in the day, Raggi told reporters she has started
writing foreign ambassadors whose citizens had been caught behaving badly. An
aide didn’t immediately respond to an AP query asking which countries’
ambassadors she had contacted.
But the city faces an uphill battle. On the grand staircase
that leads to the Michelangelo-designed square outside City Hall, tourists nibbled
on snacks, chugged down beer and fed sea gulls chunks of bread as a traffic
officer strolled by at the bottom of the stairs.
Enjoying a sandwich with prosciutto and cheese, Irena
Stojimanovski, from Serbia, said she hadn’t heard about the new law. Watching
Rome‘s chaotic traffic whizz through central Piazza Venezia, the tourist
praised the “beautiful monuments, nice and friendly people,” and
pronounced the food to be fine.
Tourists are not the law’s only target. Ever inventive, some
locals have taken to dressing up as centurions and aggressively demanding money
from tourists who pose for selfies with them. Despite repeated ordinances
banning the fake centurions from the Colosseum and other ancient monuments, the
wily Romans have taken to whipping off their helmets and changing into street
clothes kept handily nearby to avoid trouble with police.