Smile And Don’t Be Noisy: Italy’s Weird Laws

Funny ways to be fined in Italy

“A fool is one who admires other cities without visiting Rome,” once said the medieval poet Francesco Petrarca. And to be honest, I totally agree.

As I said in another article, I haven’t traveled much, but I’ve had the chance to visit the Eternal City. The very first time was back in 2011, and I vividly remember the beauty of the city surrounding me. One night I was out with my friends, and we arrived at a crossroad in Trastevere, one of the most picturesque districts of the capital.

We sat there — yes, in the middle of the road, like fools — and admired an ancient building emerging from the darkness. There and then, I literally left my heart. Or at least I have left a piece of it.

The Scalinata di Trinità dei Monti, the majestic stairway that brings you from Piazza di Spagna to the Trinità dei Monti church, took another piece of it, as we relaxed on the steps and contemplated the splendor of the square.

Today police would fine me for doing that: on August 7, a new ban on the Spanish Steps was fully enforced by local authorities, and made it illegal for people to sit, lay, eat and drink on the Scalinata. Transgressing the ordinance would cost you up to 400 euros.

Sure, the flight of stairs, which was restored three years ago by luxury brand Bulgari, is a 18th century monument that needs to be carefully preserved. However, Rome’s official tourist site (still) claims that the Spanish Steps are a resting place where visitors can hangout and enjoy the landscape — think even of Audrey Hepburn taking a seat on the staircase, and tasting an ice-cream while talking to Gregory Peck in the iconic 1953 movie Roman Holiday.

Alas, due to the new municipal rules in place, you can forget about that. Don’t say we haven’t warned you, no sitting!

Spanish Steps
Scalinata di Trinità dei Monti, also known as the Spanish Steps, in central Rome

Rome is not alone in its war against people giving their feet a rest in proximity of historical monuments: visitors are not allowed to lay on stairways in Venice, Florence, Mantua, and many other cities. So, let’s walk away from what used to be acceptable on memory lane, and let’s take a ride on the writ bus, shall we? Surely it’s going to be fun.

I live in Piedmont which capital city is Turin. Now, Turin is a beautiful city. It might be a little gloomy, but people here are nice and friendly.

Residents love animals so much to the point that a local law imposes individuals to walk their dogs at least three times a day. Yet, buskers, creative fellow human beings of ours, are considered the city’s number one enemy. Apparently, they are deemed a public nuisance.

Music-related issues seem to be a thing in my region: in my hometown, Cuneo, an ordinance against music played everywhere after midnight was almost enforced, last summer. The power of the almighty movida god saved us all eventually, thankfully. What’s the movida, you may ask? Well, it’s the nightlife, the party scene, and it’s definitely something that many cities hate for some reason.

Go North, But don’t lay down

Let’s have a look at another northern Italian city, Milan. This Lombard metropolis takes the issue of public ordinances very seriously. So seriously that a bylaw that dates back to the Hapsburg Empire obliges everyone to smile every time they’re in public spaces — exceptions are made for funerals and situations unfolding in hospitals, obviously. Therefore, the next time you’ll find yourself strolling through the Piazza del Duomo, avoid at all costs a long face and lift up those cheeks.

One must also be groomed and polished to perfection, or you will be fined 40 euros. It makes sense, I guess. I mean, this is Europe’s fashion capital, hence you have to be fabulous all the time! That’s why you can’t lay on the floor for a fantastic Instagram pic. C’est pas chic and unhygienic too.

Moving eastwards, Veneto region must be named as a whole for its many cases of strange local laws: the most important one declares that every cemetery must be provided with “remote detection devices and reporting equipment for corpse surveillance in order to detect any display of life.”

Also, do you and your children fancy having an ice cream to eat on the go while visiting Venice’s Piazza San Marco? Too bad, because policemen could fine your whole family for it, as eating in such a central, artistic square gets in the way of preserving the city’s cultural heritage.

Not too far away from the City of Water is the beach town of Eraclea. When there, tell your kids not to build sandcastles on the shore and not to play any racquet or ball games.

And although you might have seen the prettiest shell waiting just to be picked up (after all, it would look amazing in your bathroom or as a centerpiece on your dining table), do not collect it. Because if you do all of these things, breaching local bylaws, you’ll be charged with a fine ranging between 25 and 250 euros.

Piazza San Marco
Piazza San Marco, Venice’s central square

Flip-Flops And Afterlife

Fashion (and the sense of properly dressing up in public) is a big thing in Italy, not only in Milan. Because of this, be aware that in most seaside cities you should cover yourself up when you are not on the shore.

This means that as long as you are on the beach, you can walk around in a bikini or show a bare chest above your trunks. But as soon as you leave the coast, you need to wear proper clothing — even if your vacation house is just across the street from your tanning spot. Failing to do so in Lerici, a town near La Spezia in Liguria, will land you ticket of at least 25 euros.

Although showing off curves and six-packs in an urban setting is a problem, feet may usually roam in the biggest freedom. On our streets one can wear shoes, sandals or even go barefoot. Flip-flops and Crocs shoes can be spotted here and there as well, despite the everlasting social war against them.

However, the island of Capri, in the Bay of Naples, disagrees on this one. Noisy footwear is banned here. Thus if you’re planning to spend your September holidays on this rocky beauty, do yourself a favor and leave slippers and heels at home. Not only you risk being fined, but, as Culture Trip reports, you could even be arrested (!) for “excessively noisy flip-flops.”

Suddenly those silent Crocs clogs don’t look as bad anymore, huh?

Aerial view of the island of Capri

I will end this devilish list with a decree about death. Although it might seem a bit dark, I promise you’re in for a treat here. Back in 2012, the Mayor of Falciano del Massico, Giulio Cesare Fava, declared that it was “forbidden for all the inhabitants […] to cross the border of earthly existence in order to go to the afterlife.”

The statement — which I stress is not a law, but, hey, I couldn’t miss the opportunity! — was made because the small town doesn’t have a graveyard. So, please, if you’re in Falciano, don’t die.

So, if you feel like visiting Italy, pay attention to local rules and research the do’s and don’ts of your vacation destination. This way you’ll avoid unpleasant surprises and won’t have to break the bank. You can thank me later. Happy holidays!