Tourists in hot water for Rome fountain dips

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A tourist in an Italian fountain. Photo: Giuseppe Cacace / AFP
10:41 CEST+02:00
As temperatures in Italy soar thanks to the latest heatwave dubbed "“Caronte”", tourists have started leaping into the country's historic fountains to keep cool. But little do they know it's against the law.

In the early hours of Monday, a group of American tourists put on their costumes and went for a dip in the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi in Rome's Piazza Navona.

According to an appalled eyewitness Victoria Wyatt, who published photos of the event on Facebook: "“They did full circles around the fountain...after their 20-minute swim, the tourists dried off and walked away.”"

The incident came just 24 hours after a group of Belgian tourists decided to splash around in another of Piazza Navona's fountains, Fontana del Nettuno.

In the heat of the moment, and excited to be in Rome, it probably seems like an excellent idea.

A refreshing, yet awkward, attempt at recreating Anita Ekberg's famous Trevi Fountain scene in La Dolce Vita, some fun snapshots for your holiday photo album.

A bit of harmless fun, right?

Wrong. In 1999, Italy introduced a law to protect city monuments, which included a prohibition against jumping into fountains. Since then, those caught making a splash face fines of several hundred euros.

In October 2013, the Italian actress Valeria Marini was fined €160 for stepping into the Trevi in a bid to mimic Ekberg, who died in Rome late last year.

The Fontana del Nettuno, like most of the fountains in Italy, is a historical monument. Its white marble structure dates back to 1574 and work on the fountain was commissioned by Pope Gregory XIII.

Likewise with Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi.

It was designed by legendary Baroque architect Giant Lorenzo Bernini for Pope Innocent X, whose family home overlooked the square. The fountain contains the sculptures of four river Gods, who represent rivers from four different continents: the Nile, the Ganges, the Danube and the Rio della Plata.

Had the American tourists had any doubt about the historical value of the fountain they were about to leap into, they needn't have looked any further than the ancient Egyptian obelisk that stands atop it.

As they frolicked and took selfies, a group of horrified council refuse collectors looked on, but –weary of such scenes, they did not intervene.

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But the misbehaving tourists were snapped by their compatriot Wyatt, whose photos were posted on the Facebook group '“Wanted in Rome'.”

So far the photo has been shared over 950 times, and Facebook users have expressed their horror and outrage at the tourists' behavior, calling for a greater presence of law enforcement officers around monuments.

The story is just the latest in a string of tourists behaving badly tales that are emerging with greater frequency as Italy enters the height of its tourist season.

Last week, a pair of Australian tourists in Florence were caught having sex in a busy park near the famous “Ponte Vecchio” bridge. And last weekend, a Lebanese tourist was booked for carving the initials 'H.K' into one of the Colosseum's famous pillars.

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