Sitting on Rome's Spanish Steps Is Now Forbidden

Wed, 08/07/2019 - 10:40
Tourist crowds sit on Spanish Steps in Rome

[You may not see this ever again.]

Tourists and residents in Rome are no longer allowed to sit on the Spanish Steps, the effect of a new set of rules introduced earlier this summer to try to regulate the conduct of masses of visitors to the Eternal City.

The new regulations prohibit people from jumping into water fountains, bouncing wheeled suitcases down the staircases of historic monuments, walking around the city bare-chested, attaching ‘love padlocks’, snacking around monuments in order to avoid pieces of food to be all over historic sites. 

A dozen city police officers could be seen at the Spanish Steps this week whistling continuously to keep people moving, according to local media. Many tourists seemed fine with it. Interviewed by Sky News, a passer-by pointed out how seeing people sit on the steps was part of the whole scene and had its charm. “Obviously it’s not OK if they sit there and take out a box of melanzane alla parmigiana to eat, but I suppose drinking from a bottle of water would be fine,” he said. A young man said he agrees with the ban, but perhaps with some flexibility as older people may appreciate the possibility to sit down and rest (the rule makes no exceptions).

Interviewed by daily La Repubblica, Vittorio Sgarbi, one of Italy’s leading art critics, said, “Safeguarding the monument and prohibiting people from eating on the marble steps is fine, but the ban on sitting is really too much. Travelers should be allowed to sit on the steps to take in the scenery, as it’s always been done.”

Not everyone agrees. The stylist Gianni Battistoni, president of the Via Condotti association, is in favor of the measure (Via Condotti is the fashionable street that begins at the foot of the Spanish Steps). He told La Repubblica: “The measure is a sign of recovering civilization. The staircase is an artistic masterpiece, and you do not sit on masterpieces. You cannot enjoy the beauty of your surroundings with people camped all around.”

“To check on every single person who eats or drinks with the subsequent risk of damaging the marbles would require a policeman for each person,” Battistoni continued. “It makes more sense to forbid sitting altogether. You walk by, you leave.”

Transgressors may be fined from €160 to €400.

The Spanish Steps, part of Unesco’s World Heritage site that includes the historic center of Rome, underwent a 1.5-million-euro renovation in 2016 financed by luxury brand Bulgari. The marble of the monumental stairway, inaugurated in 1726 by Pope Benedict XIII, had been discolored by years of pollution and was stained by wine and coffee spills.