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CRIME

Italy’s Parmesan thieves nab €6m of cheese in two years

A spike in cheese theft has seen robbers make off with an estimated €6 million worth of Italy's prized Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese over the last two years.

Italy's Parmesan thieves nab €6m of cheese in two years
Rampant Parmesan robbers have stolen €6 million of cheese in the last two years. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

“All in all 15,000 wheels have been stolen,” Riccardo Deserti, director of Italy's Parmesan Cheese Consortium, told La Stampa.

According to Deserti, Parmesan warehouses are soft targets for thieves, who can easily make off with thousands of euros worth of the cheese in each heist. Just one 40-kilogram wheel, aged 24 months, of cheese is worth €500.

“The problem is, we're talking about rural, artisanal producers, small businesses that are often not equipped with advanced anti-theft systems.”

Precious Parmigiano-Reggiano is only produced in the countryside surrounding the cities of Modena, Bologna, Reggio Emilia, Parma and Mantua in the Emilia-Romagna region.

The thieves modus operandi is always the same. They stake out isolated, rural warehouses and strike in the dead of night, loading the stolen merchandise into the back of vans and making a speedy getaway.

Last week, 150 wheels were taken from the Ronconcesi warehouse outside Parma. It was the second time the warehouse had been targeted in the last year.

“We think stolen cheese is taken to eastern Europe and southern Italy to be fenced,” a police spokesperson told La Stampa.

While each wheel carries a traceable watermark, thieves simply cut stolen cheese up to make it untraceable, before selling it at provincial markets.

In order to counteract the phenomenon, police are stepping up night patrols in countryside areas and stopping and searching vans in a bid to catch gangs of cheese robbers. They are also advising local manufacturers on how they can make their warehouses more secure.

A recent operation saw a gang from Albania and Puglia arrested, but experts say there is more to be done.

“The number of thefts has remained consistent,” Deserti explained. “The main problem is that the warehouses are too accessible.” 

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ROME

Tourist fined €450 for swim in Rome’s Trevi Fountain

With the return of tourism and scorching temperatures, Rome’s fountains are once again attracting visitors hoping to cool off with a midnight swim.

Tourist fined €450 for swim in Rome's Trevi Fountain

In the latest incident, a 26-year-old Spanish man was fined 450 euros after taking a dip in the Trevi Fountain in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Rome’s city police apprehended and fined the man after he was spotted swimming in the 18th-century monument at around 5am, according to local media reports.

READ ALSO: How to keep cool like an Ancient Roman in Italy’s summer heat

Every summer, hapless foreign visitors face fines of hundreds of euros after falling foul of Rome’s strict ban on taking a dip in public fountains – with the city mayor warning tourists that the centuries-old Baroque monuments are “not swimming pools”.

In April, two Dutch tourists also faced fines totalling over €1,000 after their own ill-advised splash in the Trevi Fountain.

The Roman landmark is one of the city’s main magnets for badly-behaved visitors, but tourists have also been fined after cooling off in the Santa Maria fountain in Trastevere, believed to be the city’s oldest. 

Since 2018, anyone caught misbehaving at Rome’s monuments can also face a temporary ‘Daspo’ ban from the area – similar to an ASBO (anti-social behaviour order) in the UK – which allows city police to restrict the movement of people they deem a threat to public order.

READ ALSO: From selfie brawls to midnight swims: Tourists behaving badly at the Trevi Fountain

But a plan to erect a one-metre-high glass and steel barrier around the Trevi fountain to protect it from unruly visitors now appears to have been abandoned after arts and heritage experts called the idea “foolish”.

Fines for swimming in the fountains have been in place since 2015, but this hasn’t stopped determined visitors from recreating scenes from La Dolce Vita and even some locals from taking a dip – – with or without their clothes.

Swimming in the wrong place is just one of the offences regularly committed by visitors, with graffiti and vandalism a common problem at many of Italy’s famous monuments.

READ ALSO: 15 strange ways to get into trouble on holiday in Italy

In Rome alone, this year tourists have made headlines for everything from breaking into the Colosseum to enjoy a drink with a view to driving a car down the Spanish Steps.

Other Italian tourism hotspots, including Florence and Venice, also have varying local rules in place aimed at curbing rowdy behaviour.

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