Rome’s Spanish Steps closed to traffic

The historic square at the foot of Rome's monumental Spanish Steps closed to traffic on Monday, the latest in a series of new pedestrian-only zones in the Eternal City.

Rome's Spanish Steps closed to traffic
The historic square at the foot of Rome's monumental Spanish Steps is now closed to traffic. Photo: Abeer/Flickr

Police cars blocked the entrance to the square, ready to slap drivers with an €80 euro fine if they drive or park near the 18th-century Baroque-style stairway, made famous by the 1953 film "Roman Holiday" starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck.

While some tourists pausing for a rest on the 136 steps under the hot August sun approved of the no-traffic rule, others were less convinced.

"I think it's very nice that it's reserved for pedestrians," said elderly French tourist Delphine, but 17-year-old American Leah Bark said "taxis should be allowed in to enable better access" to one of Rome's most visited sites.

Taxi drivers who previously lined up across the square to wait for fares said they would not only lose out on passing tourists but also local hotel guests.

The square is also home to the "Fountain of the Old Boat" – designed by Italy's famed sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini, and his father Pietro Bernini – as well as well as the house where English poet John Keats died in 1821.

The decision to restrict the area to bicycles and emergency vehicles follows the closure last summer to traffic around the ancient Colosseum, as well as Via dei Fori Imperiali, which runs through a vast area of Roman ruins.

In March, luxury jeweller Bulgari said it would put €1.5 million towards the refurbishment of the Spanish steps, a two-year project set to kick off in 2015.

The famous steps also made the news over the weekend after an American policeman was attacked on Saturday after refusing to buy roses from a street vendor.

READ MORE HERE: Hawkers attack US police officer on Spanish Steps

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Body of missing American tourist found in Rome’s River Tiber

The body of a missing 21-year-old tourist was found in the River Tiber on Thursday morning, according to media reports.

Body of missing American tourist found in Rome's River Tiber

Elijah Oliphant, from Dallas, Texas, was on holiday with his family in Rome when he went missing several days ago.

Oliphant’s parents reported his disappearance after he left his hotel room shortly after midnight on May 24th and did not return.

Hotel security footage showed him leaving the premises wearing a white undershirt and pyjama bottoms, which he was wearing when he was found.

Oliphant’s corpse was reportedly spotted by passersby near the Ponte Sisto bridge in Rome’s Trastevere district around 10am on Thursday morning. His body was positively identified by his parents.

Members of the fire brigade and river police who recovered the body say there were no obvious signs of violence, but an autopsy will be conducted to determine the cause of death. Trastevere police are reportedly investigating the matter.

The Oliphant family had arrived in Rome for a holiday on May 23rd. When Elijah went missing the following day, his parents launched an urgent appeal to help find their son.

His disappearance was featured on the missing persons television show, Chi l’ha visto (‘Who’s seen them?’) on May 25th.

Several foreigners have been found drowned in the Tiber in recent years, though there are no indication that any of the incidents are linked.

In 2016, the body of 19-year-old American student Beau Solomon was recovered from the river.

Rough sleeper Massimo Galioto was charged involuntary manslaughter in the case, but was ultimately acquitted in 2020.

Prosecutors said that Galioto pushed Solomon in the course of a violent argument. Galioto’s defense team acknowledged that the two had argued but said the student had accidentally slipped.

In May 2019, 37-year-old Imen Chatbouri, a former athletics champion from Tunisia, was found dead in the Tiber after a night out. CCTV footage later showed she had been pushed from the Ponte Sisto bridge.

A then-26-year-old man whose advances she had rejected earlier that evening was convicted of her murder in November 2021.