Eating a gelato on the Spanish Steps may be at the top of a list of things to do for many visitors to Rome, but it could land them with a €500 (£400) fine from today.
Visitors who want to emulate Audrey Hepburn in the classic film Roman Holiday will be slapped with hefty fines under a new law adopted by the city’s council.
Under the law, tourists are prohibited from eating pizza, sandwiches, panini or any other snacks around many of the monuments and architectural treasures in the ‘centro storico’ or historic centre of the Eternal City.
They include the marble fountains of Piazza Navona, which is thronged with cafés, restaurants and street artists, as well as the stone walls which surround the Pantheon, a former Roman temple converted into a church, and Via dei Fori Imperiali, the broad approach to the Colosseum, the ancient Roman arena where gladiators once fought.
Fines will range from €25 up to €500, in what one Italian newspaper, La Repubblica, called the start of the “panino war”.
“It is forbidden to encamp or erect makeshift shelters and stop to eat or drink in zones which have a particular historic or architectural value,” reads the ordinance adopted by Rome city council.
The law is intended to “guarantee the protection of areas of merit in the historic centre.” Similar bans have been adopted in Venice, where eating snacks on the street is prohibited in St Mark’s Square, as well as Florence and Bologna.
“This is a way to re-educate people about how to behave in this city. We’ve let standards fall,” said Viviana Di Capua, from an association of residents who live in the historic centre.
“At the moment people can do anything they like in this city. We need to restore respect. It’s just a first step – a lot more needs to be done,” she said.
She called for a crackdown on drinking alcohol in Rome’s cobbled streets and piazzas, while other campaigners said they wanted to see an end to the pub crawls that have become popular with young foreign tourists, particularly Britons, Americans and Australians.