By now, most regular visitors to Italy know that things like swimming in fountains and street drinking are not just frowned upon, but likely to land you with a fine or a Daspo (temporary ban from the area).
But as Italian tourist hotspots struggle to manage overcrowding in peak season, it seems that visitors are falling foul of local laws every other day.
Simply being polite and considerate should usually be enough to keep you out of trouble in Italy. But even the most well-meaning visitor could fall foul of some rules, which were either enforced recently in response to issues with overtourism or brought in many years ago and never abolished.
So here’s a quick look at what NOT to do if you want to avoid any trouble on your next trip.
Bring a wheelie suitcase
Ever heard the sound of a dozen wheeled suitcases rolling down a cobbled street in Rome? If so, you might understand why the capital, and Venice, have decided to ban luggage on wheels from their city centres (and don’t even think of hauling one up or down the Spanish Steps).
Local authorities in the popular seaside destination of Cinque Terre have begged visitors to stop wearing flip-flops on its hiking trails, which many visitors don’t realise are pretty rugged. Tired of having to call out the emergency services to rescue stranded tourists, authorities are now handing out fines ranging from €50 to €2,500 to anyone caught endangering themselves with a poor choice of footwear.
Eat on the go
You’ll rarely see image-conscious Italians eating snacks while walking, or ordering a (heaven forbid) takeout coffee. Taking the time to sit down and eat or drink “properly” is of huge importance. But in Florence, snacking on the streets is actually banned.
Florentines’ intense dislike of seeing tourists munching slices of pizza as they walk means you could be fined for eating on the go on certain streets in the historic centre at mealtimes, when the city says everyone should be sitting down to enjoy their food. You can be fined up to €500 for flouting the law.
Eat in the wrong place
And don’t think that you can sit down to enjoy your panino just anywhere. “Slovenly eating” on or near Rome’s historic fountains at any time of day can land you in serious trouble under recently-passed laws, and anyone caught picnicking on the streets of Venice can also expect a hefty fine.
Make your own coffee
Two backpackers were fined a whopping €900 recently in Venice for brewing a morning coffee at the foot of the Rialto bridge. Locals weren’t impressed by the visitors setting up a camping stove next to the world-famous monument, and called the police – though some of our readers commented that the real “crime” here was bringing their own coffee to Italy.
Sardinia has cracked down on “sand theft” in an effort to protect its fragile environment. You might never have thought of it, but there are people who take sand home from beaches as souvenirs – while plenty more accidentally take it home on their clothes or beach towels. Anyone found smuggling sand in their suitcases can now be fined up to €3,000 – and one couple who tried to take a whopping 40kg of sand home with them now face jail time.
Swim in a canal
Several people have found themselves in trouble with police in the past few years after going for a swim in Venice’s canals on a hot summer’s day. Think dipping a toe in won’t cause any harm? Putting your feet in is banned, too.
Cool off in a fountain
It might look tempting in Rome’s summer heat, but there have been around a dozen reports of tourists being fined up to €450 this year alone after taking a refreshing dip in one of Rome’s historic fountains. And we definitely don’t recommend skinny-dipping in central Milan.
Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP
Use a drinking fountain incorrectly
Rome has another type of fountain: those spouting fresh drinking water. But using them improperly – putting your mouth to the tap, or even washing your feet in them – can incur the wrath of locals and also land you with a fine.
Sit on the steps
Sitting on Rome’s famous Spanish Steps was, until very recently, a very typical thing to do on a summer evening in the city. But a new law makes this a thing of the past. It’s now prohibited to sit on the historic steps, which were built in the 1700s and recently restored at a cost of 1.5 million euros.
Ride a bike
In Venice’s usually crowded city centre, riding a bike, or even walking with a bike, is now banned.
Wear a swimsuit
Italians regularly complain about visitors to cities dressing as if they’re at the beach. But under new rules, Venice has completely banned swimwear and sunbathing in the centre – and walking around shirtless (or topless) in Venice or Rome will get you in trouble, too.
Feed the pigeons
Another one from rule-heavy Venice: this favourite pastime of tourists everywhere could get you into big trouble in the canal city.
Use a “love lock”
The idea of writing your initials on a padlock and affixing it to a bridge was made popular by instagrammers everywhere from Prague to Paris. Many European cities have cracked down on it now after damage to historic bridges – and Rome and Venice are among them.
Just in case you were going to pack a pair of wooden clogs for your trip to Capri (and who wasn’t?) here’s a heads up: they’ve been banned on the island since 1960, for reasons we can only guess at.