Keep out of the Trevi Fountain 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.
Italian authorities are now considering limiting access to the Trevi Fountain, in response to an incident where a man dived and splashed around in the waters of the popular tourist attraction in Rome last week.
In videos of the episode shared widely on social media, the man can be seen diving from the side of 17th-century monument to applause from the gathered crowd.
In a statement, tourism councillor Alessandro Onorato said this was “yet another tourist making a mockery of the historical and cultural heritage of our city and our rules.” The man has since been arrested and fined €450. There are strict rules enforced to ensure visitors respect the site; eating and drinking on the steps leading down to the fountain incurs a fine of €500 ($600), while bathing in the waters of this and any Roman fountain is strictly forbidden.
The Trevi Fountain is one of Rome’s most-visited tourist attractions. Thousands visit the site every day, keeping up with the tradition of tossing a coin into the water to ensure they will return to the Eternal City. On average, about €3000 ($3250) is thrown in daily, a sum donated to charity.
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Barrier around the Trevi Fountain
In 2020 the city’s then mayor proposed erecting a barrier around the baroque landmark to protect it. At the time, the plan was met with resistance from Romans who argued that altering the historic masterpiece would tarnish its authenticity. Yet calls are being made to reconsider the proposal in the aftermath of last week’s antisocial activity.
This episode of bad behavior follows another in Rome in June when a British tourist was caught carving “Ivan+Hayley 23” into the wall of the 2000-year-old Colosseum. The act of vandalism sparked widespread fury after the video was shared on social media and reported on internationally. Ivan Dimitrov, who was arrested at the time of the incident, has since written to the mayor of Rome to apologize, explaining he was unaware of the history and significance of the ancient site. He could face a fine of up to €15,000 or five years in prison.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.
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 the country’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, other less obvious tourist activities have 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 the 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.While it may be tempting to take photos inside the Sistine Chapel, you’ll be asked to leave if you try © S-F / Shutterstock
At Italian historical sites, don’t...
1. Wade or drive in the Trevi Fountain. The activity is banned and you could risk a hefty fine.
2. 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 as if they were, given the recent incident.
3. Sit down on the Spanish Steps.
4. In fact, don’t sit or lay down in front of shops, historical monuments and bridges. You’ll more than likely be moved on.
5. Drag strollers, scooters or wheeled suitcases up the Spanish Steps in Rome.
6. Eat or drink at famous sites in any city.
7. 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.
8. Feed the birds in Piazza San Marco in Venice.
9. Take a photo inside the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel.
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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In Italian cities, don’t...
12. Visit Venice for the day without pre-booking and paying an entry fee – starting soon. The long-mooted tax for day trippers 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’s city center.
20. Drink alcohol on the street between 8pm and 8am in Venice.
21. Attach love locks to bridges in Rome and Venice.
22. Take part in group celebrations such as hen and stag parties outdoors on weeknights in Venice. They’re only permitted outdoors during the day or over 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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At Italian resorts and islands, don’t...
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, Calabria.
29. Swim in the Blue Grotto on the island of Capri. You can visit by boat, but swimming in the grotto is strictly forbidden. Just 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 (look for 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.”