Don't carve your name into the Colosseum and 32 other acts you should avoid in Italy

Don't go to Italy in 2023 without reading up on what not to do: here are all the new rules you need to know.

Don't carve your name into the Colosseum and 32 other acts you should avoid in Italy
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In response to an incident where a tourist was caught carving his name into the Colosseum in Rome on Friday, Italian authorities are now making a renewed appeal for tourists to respect the rules and customs of the country.

On Friday, a tourist was caught on camera engraving the names, "Ivan+Hayley 23," into the wall of the 2,000-year-old Colosseum in Rome. The act of vandalism sparked widespread fury and now efforts are being made to identify the individuals involved after the video was shared on social media.

Speaking about the incident, Daniela Santanchè, the tourism minister, called for Italy’s culture and history to be respected and said she hopes the culprit is sanctioned. “We cannot allow those who visit our nation to feel free to behave in this way,” she said.

While Italy's culture minister, Gennaro Sangiuliano, described the incident as "very serious" on Twitter and stated his hope that the perpetrators would be identified and punished in accordance with the country's laws.

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View of the Colosseum on a summer's day
Tourists are increasingly committing acts of vandalism on the Colosseum © Andrea Ronchini / NurPhoto / Getty Images

Transgressions like this are met with a zero-tolerance approach in Italy. In 2015, two American women were fined €800 after they were caught carving their initials and a love heart on the base of the Arch of Augustus in the Roman Forum. The tourist who defaced the Colosseum could face an even bigger fine of up to €15,000 or five years in prison as the penalties become more severe.

Italy has long depended on mass tourism to keep its economy afloat. Still, like many popular destinations that are becoming overwhelmed with visitors as travel demand soars, authorities are emphasizing the need to rethink how visitors interact with Italy's heritage and infrastructure. Tourists are welcome but not to the detriment of residents' quality of life and mobility.

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In addition to vandalism, there are other less obvious tourist activities that are banned as authorities take steps to address the issue of overtourism and crack down on inappropriate behavior. Engaging in activities like swimming in Venice's canals or sitting on the Spanish Steps in Rome can lead to fines or even a temporary ban from the area (known as Daspo).

If you're planning a trip to Italy and don't want to be that person who could offend (or worse, commit an offense), simply respecting the country and its citizens should be enough to keep you out of trouble. That said, even the most well-intentioned visitor might slip up from time to time. With that in mind, here's a quick brief on what not to do on your next visit to Italy's top tourist destinations:

Ceiling of the Sistine chapel in the Vatican museum
While it may be tempting to take photos inside the Sistine Chapel, you'll be asked to leave if you try © S-F / Shutterstock

Italian historical sites


1. Take a photo inside the Vatican's Sistine Chapel.

2. Sit down on the Spanish Steps.

3. In fact, don't sit or lay down in front of shops, historical monuments and bridges. You'll more than likely be moved on.

4. Drag pushchairs, scooters or wheeled suitcases up the Spanish Steps in Rome.

5. Eat or drink at famous sites in any city.

6. Eat on the streets of Florence's historic center – Via de' Neri, Piazzale Degli Uffizi, Piazza del Grano and Via Della Ninna - from noon to 3pm and from 6pm to 10pm daily.

7. Feed the birds in Piazza San Marco in Venice.

8. Wade in the Trevi Fountain. The activity is banned and you could risk a hefty fine.

9. Or, stand too close to the Trevi Fountain; city officials in Rome have been considering installing protective barriers around the historical monument for years. Even though they're not in place yet, it's a safe bet to act like they are.

10. Don't treat historical sites like your home. In 2019, two German tourists were fined €950 ($1058) and immediately asked to leave Venice after they were found making coffee on a portable stove beneath Rialto Bridge. 

11. Don't damage any historical site or monument of cultural importance by carving your name or littering. You will be fined or worse, prosecuted. 

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Gondola on Canal Grande in Venice on a summer day
Venice is one of the world's most overtouristed cities and has a raft of new measures in place to manage crowds © S-F / Shutterstock

Italian cities


12. Visit Venice for the day without pre-booking and paying an entry fee soon. The tax for day trippers – long-mooted – has been delayed but is likely to be introduced later this year.

13. Dive, swim or bathe in Venice's canals.

14. Fly a drone in an urban area without a license or a permit.

15. Set up picnics in public spaces in Venice or pause on the city's bridges for too long.

16. Join organized pub crawls in Rome. They're banned.

17. Jump into fountains anywhere or otherwise damage or climb on them.

18. Busk on public transport in Rome.

19. Ride bikes in Venice city center.

20. Drink alcohol on the street between 8pm and 8am in Venice.

21. Attach lovelocks to bridges in Rome and Venice.

22. Take part in group celebrations such as hen and stag parties outdoors during weeknights in Venice. They're only permitted outdoors during the day or at weekends. 

23. Let your mouth touch the spout of Rome's public drinking fountains, known as nasoni. Instead, cup your hands under the spout of the tap and place your finger under the stream to direct an arc of water to your mouth.

24. Drink alcohol from glass containers on public streets, public transit and in non-enclosed green spaces in Rome after 10pm. Or drink alcohol out of any container after midnight in these spaces.

25. Dress up as a historical figure or character like a "centurion" (gladiator) in Rome and pose for photos. 

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A view of Cala Goloritzé beach, Sardegna, Italy
Stealing sand from beaches in Italy is a serious offense © maniscule / Getty Images / iStockphoto

Italian resorts and islands


26. Walk around shirtless or in your swimwear in any metropolitan area. This state of dress is strictly restricted to the beach or lido. This is especially true in Sorrento, where you could be fined up to €500 for breaching the dress code. "No more with the indecent behavior," the mayor of Sorrento said last year when he introduced the fines. 

27. Wear sandals or flip-flops while hiking in Cinque Terre.

28. Walk around barefoot in Praia a Mare.

29. Swim in the Blue Grotto on the island of Capri. You can visit by boat, but swimming in the grotto is strictly forbidden; ask supermodel Heidi Klum who was fined €6000 in 2019 for taking a dip in the waters.

30. Steal sand from the beaches of Sardinia (or any beach for that matter). You could face up to six years in prison.

31. Forget to bring euros with you when visiting the beach. Some charge cover fees and most charge for the use of sun umbrellas and loungers.

32. Linger too long in certain restricted zones in the cobblestoned main square of Portofino (there'll be signs to show you what zones are off-limits) between now and October 15, from morning until 6pm. According to regulations that were introduced in April 2023, individuals who spend an excessive amount of time in designated "red zones" may face fines of up to €275. The intention behind this measure is to manage overcrowding and preserve the charm of the area.

33. Build sandcastles on the beach in Eraclea, near Venice. It's illegal, with authorities claiming they "obstruct the passage." 

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