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Don't nosh on the fountains in Rome!

Adding to Lola's post about about lunching on church steps in Florence....

https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/italy/do-not-try-picnicking-on-church-steps-in-florence

...Rome has evidently had it with tourists using the fountains - about 40 of the best of 'em - for picnicking.

https://www.thelocal.it/20170612/rome-virginia-raggi-bans-snacking-tourists-eating-drinking-ancient-fountains-heritage

The ban includes not only eating but drinking, sitting, biking and climbing on, wading, watering pets and pretty much anything else but snapping a shot and tossing a coin: see the Roma Today article in Italian. They're also drawing a tougher line about snacking on the Spanish Steps or other monuments.

So don't lose your beer allowance to a hefty fine, OK? That would be just sad.

Posted by
1731 posts

Not for nuthin', Kath, but that's just plain ridiculous. At a time when the security should have their eyes peeled for evildoers, this is very small potatoes in comparison. Knock on wood, they haven't succeeded in targeting Italy yet, but all the more reason to concentrate on that rather than some naive American tourist unknowingly sitting down to enjoy a take-away panini. Those aren't the ones to target...

One of the few places in Rome that was tourist-packed in early March was the Trevi Fountain, everyone doing the obligatory toss the coin and selfie. I probably saw that 20 times in 5 minutes. I didn't do it myself, but I took a picture of a young Aussie couple with their camera and then they reciprocated. Now that I think of it, however, I didn't see people eating al fresco by the fountain at all. Might have been because of the presence of at least 5 armed carabinieri.

My sense from seeing the security at the attractions and at no less than 15 foreign embassies while knocking around Rome over a week's time is that they don't fool around when it comes to this, unlike many other EU members.

Posted by
904 posts

I think the Italians are right on! Can you imagine having over a million visitors from around the world picnicking in your town? The mess after would be incredible. We owe the Italians a debt of gratitude for taking care of all the archeology and architecture for the rest of the world. Not littering and leaving food scraps around town is simply good manners for our hosts. It is the least we can do.

Would you picnic on your church steps, wade in your most famous fountain, climb on a world treasure?

Posted by
599 posts

This post made me smile! We were at the Trevi fountain just last week, which was positively heaving even at 7.30 pm. There appeared to be a dedicated member of the carabinieri on duty specifically to stop sightseers eating next to the fountain. As I joked at the time, you can park - abandon, even - your car at right angles to a narrow street or dump a souvenir stand on a pedestrian crossing without so much as a second glance, but try eating a gelato in close proximity to the Trevi and you'll feel the full might of the Italian Police!

Still, probably not a bad policy as noted above. At least the place is only littered with human tourists (me included!).

Ian

Posted by
44 posts

Just a related observation...I haven't been to Rome, but on our recent trip to northern Italy (Milan, Lake Como, Venice, Verona) we noticed a lack of public seating available (even many train stations). So what do they expect, if no other seating is available? Sometimes a very tired tourist just needs to sit down for a few minutes. Any outdoor seating that was available was only at restaurants.

Posted by
337 posts

Many of these fountains are honest to goodness works of art. Thinking of Trevi, of the Waters, several others that I don't recall so well. I get it. Do your thing, toss your coin, take your picture, keep yer gaddamn locks off the fences and don't drop crumbs that feed rats that mess up other people's coin tossing and picture taking.

But honestly, get them gendarmes some bolt cutters and get to work on the "locks of love."

Posted by
11734 posts

My take on it? Whether we think it's ridiculous or not, it's not our country and not our cultural treasures. We also don't pay the taxes or solicit the donors needed to keep them shipshape for people like us to enjoy.

Aside from tourists sitting on valuable pieces of history, food draws birds whose droppings cause all sorts of problems: they do a LOT of damage to old buildings, fountains and other monuments. That's why it's pretty much illegal everywhere in Italy to sell feed for the birds in the piazzas, and one of the reasons the authorities don't like debris from people food scattered around. They're trying like the devil to starve the worst of the pests (pigeons) out!

Americans, also think of it this way? If you tour the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde, you are asked not to consume any liquids with sugar/flavorings, any food at all, and you are not allowed to sit on or climb on any of the ruins...which are not that much older (in the big picture) than some of the fountains in Rome, and much younger than imperial-era artifacts hanging around on some Roman streets. They ask that for the same reasons: they're old and fragile, and pest animals cause a lot of damage.

The antiquities folks have bigger thing to worry about than how tired a visitor's feet are: it's best to sit in a cafe and not on something hundreds of years old, please?

Posted by
490 posts

Yep, this has been going on for awhile. especially Spanish Steps..no drinking eating or gelato etc...you can sit and admire the view..but tourist police will admonish you for snacking :)

I saw kids jumping all over the base of the sculpture of the Trevi Fountain!!! Helllo it is a sculpture, a precious monument...control your kids! Food droppings are inevitable and that brings vermin...pigeons and poop....who wants that???

Try to make time to stop and have a snack or drink at a counter, inside or outside for a quick pick me up..or enjoy a real lunch. You can eat a sandwich or pizza while walking from one sight to another....especially in Rome, everything in Centro Storico is 10 minutes apart.

Posted by
11613 posts

There are places to sit and have a coffee, bottle of mineral water, or hot tea (the latter takes me the most time to consume) and enjoy the views. Budget for sitting and snacking, just like you budget for a roof over your head, and for other travel expenses.

In Toledo, except at indoor malls, good luck finding public seating anywhere. Is your home town different?

Public gardens also have benches if your feet need a (free) rest.

As for tourist trash being small potatoes, and police having nothing better to do, I disagree strongly. Police and military do pursue anti-terrorism and other criminal activity. And tons of refuse improperly disposed of does cause damage.

Posted by
231 posts

It was an eye opener to see the remarks about lack of public seating in the historic areas because we do have a lot of public seating in our historic downtown. (Wading in or climbing on the fountain in the plaza is discouraged, however.) I'll be keeping my eye out for public gardens/parks if we need a rest and it's not time for a snack. And I'll remember the "tip" about the hot tea also since I'm a tea drinker and the extra minutes might give me time to get in a quick sketch before moving on. :)

Posted by
8293 posts

When I think of the historic "old" Montreal area, right near the port, a tourist destination, I know you can easily find a place to sit and eat, as long as it is at the outdoor "terrasse" of a charming restaurant and you order something from the menu. Does anyone really expect the "city fathers" to provide lots of outdoor seating so that tourists can eat their cheaply bought lunches and not patronize the local restaurants?

Posted by
1773 posts

It makes sense for tourist cities to do this on several levels and I've seen it in other places. Trash is definitely an issue and restaurant owners must have a part in it as well. I tried to find a spot to sit and it in the Rue Cler and realized it's impossible (best just to walk to the Eiffel Tower).

Posted by
449 posts

Is there any place outside of my hostel where I legally will be allowed to eat fruit like bananas, oranges, or dates? I already sort of asked this in another thread and perhaps I didn't write the question well. I imagine this sounds rude, silly, odd, or worse, and I am afraid restaurant food may be too high in sodium or otherwise bad for you and I worry that wheat is bad for you. My budget is lower than average. My great grandfather with my same last name had a heart attack and died when he was 39.

Posted by
11734 posts

Mike, your question was covered in one of your previous posts:

https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/italy/picnicing

You're just going to have to play it by ear. It's OK to snack while walking but try to do it discretely, and if you see a park or a bench, take advantage of them. There were some benches in Piazza Navona and Piazza del Popolo in Rome, as I recall. We've also taken a quick break on the curbs or steps (not really old ones) of some quiet, out-of-the-way streets.

You're really missing out not being willing to at least try some local food in Italy, though.

Posted by
23983 posts

If you are going to eat in public and want to nibble, use napkins. Italians are quite bothered by the idea of touching food with your fingers, so no matter if it is a pastry or cake or a piece of fruit or dates use a napkin to hold it.

What are you going to do with the pits?

By the way, if you are eating dates because other food has ingredients that you find vile or scary, read the container that the dates come in for what is used to preserve them.

Posted by
1731 posts

You know, I do get the argument for the refuse left by uncaring (or just plain rude/ignorant) snackers, that would be very tempting for the zillion birds that frequent these urban areas. And I also understand it's not our country, to abide by their rules. And as a human being with any semblance of environmental awareness, geez, just pick up after yourself--this isn't an American pigsty.

I did say it was 'small potatoes' but that was taking into account the seemingly limited amount of money they designate for upkeep of all these historically wonderful jewels. Maybe the clamping down policy will no doubt result in fines targeted for the 'ugly (and messy) American'? I'll buy that train of thought wholeheartedly if those funds actually go towards upkeep. In a similar vein, I wonder where all those fines collected from Americans after the fact for ZTL violations go?

Finally, I'll admit that on a previous trip--I checked beforehand online and read that it was OK--we brought a panini, Cric Croc chips and water into Pompei, after reading that the one onsite snack bar could be overrun and didn't have a good selection of food. We picnicked on a stone bench outside one of the amphitheatres for 15 minutes, totally picked up after ourselves, leaving no carbon footprint, took our garbage with us & thought that it was a very cool thing to do, to sit and contemplate our surroundings during lunch and admittedly felt no archeological blasphemy at all.

Immediately, I was absolutely lambasted on the boards for doing this, doing something that was actually OK to do, posters throwing the ugly American phrase at me when I've done everything in my three trips not to become that kind of person, assimilating wherever & whenever I could because I love my ancestors' homeland so much. I felt it was duplicity of the highest order.

Posted by
11734 posts

And as a human being with any semblance of environmental awareness,
geez, just pick up after yourself--this isn't an American pigsty.

Jay, the restrictions apply to messes/damage left behind or inflicted from ALL tourists, not just Americans. Gosh, I've seen tourists from other countries leave messes and abuse architectural treasures too. They're not picking on any one nationality.

I don't recall the board where you'd been given a hard time about lunching at Pompei. I remember expressing surprise that was allowed, given rules at other archeological sites I'd been to, but that I didn't recall seeing any signage there myself which forbid it as long as one didn't munch ON the ruins (which you didn't and wouldn't). Gosh, I sure don't remember anyone throwing the "ugly American" slur at you, and am sorry if that happened as that would have been underserved. You've offered up lots of good advice for the gang here!

Posted by
1731 posts

It was another board, Kath. Here, I know people did express surprise at it, but they were civil, as they are almost always.

Posted by
11734 posts

Ah. Good to know that it didn't come from Our Gang, Jay.
And blasted autocorrect... The "underserved" in my last post was supposed to be "undeserved." Grrrr.

Posted by
98 posts

Not to be critical but Americans are far from the only culprits in making a mess of tourist areas. Being a thoughtless, entitled slop is a trait which crosses many national and ethnic borders.

Posted by
135 posts

The problem is mass tourism in general. And places like Rome are overrun. Popularity comes with a cost. I live in New York part-time, and tourists make getting around the Financial District a pain. They block intersections, they just stop in front of you when you're trying to get to work. The touts luring tourists onto the stupid double-decker tour buses clog the sidewalks and shove leaflets in front of you (I give them that drop dead I'm a native look). I'm not blaming the tourists themselves--ok, maybe a little--but the whole phenomenon of this lemming-like attraction to a few places. Maybe if we did what Rick himself preaches: go to places that are off the beaten track. To do so, don't just follow his guidebooks, but use his approach as a guide. Personally, I avoid big cities when I'm in Italy. If someone insists on visiting Rome, I'll go for a day trip, but that's it. Or I'll go in the off season and stay with a relative.

Posted by
1731 posts

I will champion off-season travel as long I'm alive. I can guarantee you that had I taken my March trip to Rome in July, I would have not enjoyed it nearly as much. In March it was Rome as it's supposed to be. Sure, still big crowds at the attractions like Spanish Steps & Trevi, but I felt good with walk-bys of those places knowing that serenity was available in so many other places.

Posted by
135 posts

Jay, I completely agree with you. It's nice wandering around Italy wearing a jacket and scarf, and not having to lug big bottles of water around in case you get thirsty (as you inevitably will on those broiling hot days). If you're dead set on a high season holiday, think about beaches, mountains, the countryside. I'm also coming from this: The point of being there isn't just to "see" things. It's to experience a different way of life and meet people. There's a certain rhythm to life in Italy--get up, have a quick cappuccino and cornetto. Walk around, sightsee if you want, shop if you want. Stop in at a bar, have a midmorning snack. Continue your wandering. Then find a trattoria for lunch, have a decent meal. Go inside, relax, take a nap. Wake up, go out, have an aperitivo, do some shopping. Then about 8:30-9, have dinner. Next day, repeat.

Posted by
1667 posts

I will champion off-season travel as long I'm alive. I can guarantee you that had I taken my March trip to Rome in July, I would have not enjoyed it nearly as much.

We travel in the shoulder or off-season. We planned our trip to Scotland at a wonderful time, although it was accidentally. We went the week after Easter, unaware that Easter week was a huge tourist week for Scotland (Italy I could understand). Everything had opened up Easter week for the start of the season, but by the time we got there almost everyone had gone home. The daffodils were in full bloom and we had glorious sun for all but one day.

The point of being there isn't just to "see" things. It's to experience a different way of life and meet people. There's a certain rhythm to life in Italy--

Unusual circumstances led us to end up taking two trips to Europe in one year's time. We totally planned one, our trip to Tuscany. We were invited to join another couple on a river cruise. We had a wonderful time on both trips, but the nature of the trips drove home your point. We saw far more bucket list sites on the cruise, but the relaxed trip to Tuscany where we had opportunities to meet the residents was far more fulfilling.

We also seek out accommodations that are smaller and more modestly priced, even though we can afford more posh digs. Most of the B&B's we stayed at in Scotland were working farms run by empty nesters who rent out a spare bedroom or two. Both the hosts and the fellow guests turn out to be far more interesting.

Posted by
663 posts

we noticed a lack of public seating available

Let's not cheat ourselves about the reasons for that. It's not that they don't want tired tourists to have a place to sit down. And it's not the local restaurant owners who want to force people to sit on one of their chairs.

In many cities, public benches have been taken down because they don't want the homeless people to sleep there. That would just be such an ugly sight and really spoil the selfie spots for the tourists, wouldn't it?

Sorry to sound a bit cynical, but I guess it doesn't hurt to be aware of that kind of thing.