Roman authorities are now authorized to levy a hefty fine against anyone who wades, bathes, or swims in the Trevi Fountain, the 18th-century fountain decorated by artists from the Bernini school, or other historical waterworks. The new schedule of fines starts at 40 euros (about $45) and can go as high as 240 euros (about $270) for the worst offenses. The fines will remain in place from now through October 31—high season for tourists to the Eternal City.
Aimed at shielding a number of Roman fountains from damages caused by visitors’ bad behavior, the new regulations include tourist hotspots such as the Piazza di Spagna, Piazza Navona, Piazza Barberini and Piazza del Popolo. The rules also ban eating and drinking on the fountains’ edges, climbing on them, allowing pets to drink from them and throwing anything into them beyond coins.
“The beauty of Rome must be respected by all,” Raggi wrote on Facebook. “We will not tolerate incidents that are contrary to the rules of urban decorum, and we want to protect the historical, artistic and archaeological heritage of Rome.”
From its beginnings in the 15th century to commemorate the ancient Aqua Virgo aqueduct built in 19 B.C., to its 18th-century redesign, the Trevi Fountain has held a singular place in Roman history. In more recent decades, it’s also become a pop-culture icon, thanks to memorable appearances in the 1953 movie “Roman Holiday,” starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck, and particularly in Federico Fellini’s 1960 film “La Dolce Vita,” where blonde bombshell Anita Ekberg waded into the 255-year-old fountain in an evening dress.
This isn’t the first time Rome’s authorities have tried to crack down on indecorous behavior at the city’s most prized landmarks. After Italian fashion house Fendi paid for a major restoration of the Trevi in 2015, police presence increased around the famous fountain, and fines for bathing in it were increased. That didn’t stop a British former model from walking into the Trevi in full Ekberg mode, wearing a black evening gown and fur stole, in July 2016. According to a report in the Telegraph, she paid the 450-euro fine in cash, and the whole thing was a stunt to promote her soon-to-be-published book.
Earlier that same month, the Telegraph reported, three young women (believed to be tourists) were filmed in bathing suits cooling themselves in the Fontana dell’Acqua Paola, a 1612 landmark on Janiculum Hill, overlooking central Rome. Posted on social media, the pictures angered locals who saw it as a lack of respect for the city’s heritage.
Or consider La Barcaccia, the boat-shaped fountain located at the bottom of the Spanish Steps, which was designed some 500 years ago by master sculptor Pietro Bernini. In early 2015, a crowd of Dutch soccer fans kicked and threw beer bottles at the fountain before their team, Rotterdam’s Feyenoord, played a Europa League match against AS Roma. As Reuters reported at the time, police confronted the crowd and detained 23 of the fans, whose actions caused serious damage to the fountain.
Even aside from such outstanding incidents, historic landmarks across Italy have been increasingly at risk in recent years, thanks to mass tourism and its effects on crumbling ancient structures. With more than 60 million visitors annually, Italy is among the top tourist destinations in the world. But despite the economic importance of tourism, Italy’s government is grappling with the need to protect its priceless cultural heritage, especially as the crowds of summer visitors descend.
According to legend, anyone who throws a coin in the Trevi Fountain will be guaranteed a return trip to Rome. It’s such a popular custom that earlier this year, a Catholic charity confirmed that nearly $1.5 million in change was thrown into the fountain in 2016 alone.
Rome’s new fountain regulations join a number of such efforts undertaken in recent months. In Florence, city authorities have started hosing down the steps of landmarks such as the Basilica of Santa Croce and the Santo Spirito church, to discourage people from eating and drinking there, according to the Local. And in Venice, the lagoon city visited by some 25 million people each year, the city council recently passed several measures aimed at keeping tourist traffic down in the most popular areas, including people-counters, a police crackdown on unruly visitors and even planned limits on the number of tourist accommodations the city will provide.