The Spanish Steps have offered a resting place to many weary travellers over the years – but now being able to rest your feet by slumping on them with a cooling drink or gelato has come to an abrupt end.
It is something I was reminded of on my recent trip to Rome when I sat on them! I must be one of the last people to be photographed reclining on the steps before a loud whistle was heard and a policewoman appeared in front of me.
The police in Rome are preventing people from sitting on the steps, as has been the tradition, because of the dangers of damage and erosion – and also the rubbish left on them.
It is also now prohibited to sit on the edge of fountains such as the Trevi Fountain and Fontana della Barcaccia in Piazza di Spagna at the foot of the Spanish Steps, which is now surrounded by barriers and red tape, quite literally. Generations of romantic assignations sitting on the edge of the fountains in Rome, or perched on the Spanish Steps, have come to an end.
New laws mean the police can issue a £230 fine to anyone caught sitting on the Spanish Steps – a place where people congregate to enjoy the view of the Fontana della Barcaccia (1627), which used to provide comfort to the poet Keats as he lay dying from tuberculosis in his bedchamber overlooking Piazza di Spagna.
Travellers also gather on the Spanish Steps with guitars – or busk at the foot of the steps for the entertainment of those sitting there.
However, leaving rubbish on the steps or damaging the stairway by hauling suitcases up or down it can now also attract a fine of £370.
Anyone who has tried to walk up the steps in one go will also know how challenging this can be, especially on a hot day!
However, Italy is getting tougher on those who potentially cause damage to its ancient monuments – in Rome, bathing in the fountains is prohibited, as is walking around bare chested.
And if you are visiting Venice, the same ban on bare chests and swimming in the canals has been introduced.
When in Italy, stand up and cover up seems to be the new message!
Images copyright A. Meredith except where stated.
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