5 things (plus one) you can not do in Rome!
Compared to other cities worldwide, Rome provides a very accommodating, free environment to all of its visitors. For instance, you can dress however you like, provided your clothing is modest enough when you visit local churches. If you’re a young mother, you can breastfeed in public – no one will bat an eyelid (if they do… they’re not locals! We can promise you that.). You can drink alcohol from an open container (but be aware that excessively drinking in public is frowned upon). You can even smoke in certain establishments, and pretty much anywhere outdoors.
Still, there are a few things you can’t be doing in the city, quite simply put because there are laws prohibiting them, and pretty stiff fines for offenders. So, in the spirit of spreading information which can help you make the most of your holiday in Rome and spare you some disappointment (and unplanned expenses!), here’s some of the things that are off-limits when you visit Rome.
- Taking a plunge in Rome’s fountains
The famous stroll in the water by Anita Ekberg during Fellini’s La Dolce Vita was only meant to be enjoyed on the big screen! The only thing that can go into the fountains is coins – jumping into them or even just plunging your feet in them to cool down is an illegal offence, fined to the tune of 450 EUR per person. In some instances, the fines can go up: ask the U.S. tourist who dipped her feet in the fountain at the base of the Victor Emmanuel monument! As a matter of fact, that is also the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier so the visitor in question was also sued for desecration.
- Haggling in stores
While not regulated by law (obviously!), haggling over the price of goods in Rome (or Italy, at large) is only acceptable if you’re buying at a flea/street market, or from a street seller (in which case, make sure you’re dealing with someone who’s authorised. If it’s not, and if you’re buying counterfeit goods, you could be fined).
Trying to haggle in, say, an art gallery, at a restaurant, in clothing stores is considered rude and offensive. In certain situations, like in craftsman or antiques shops, try asking for a discount instead of haggling, especially if you’re buying more than two or three items there. Most of the times a discount will be offered without you having to ask. As in most situations abroad, common sense is key!
- Driving without an international license
If you’re not an Italian national and if you’re committed to driving to your accommodation, you could be incurring in serious issues.
The “infamous” ZTL, for instance, is the current system in place in central Rome, which only allows local residents and public transport into certain areas of the old city. We’ll get to discuss in depth the ZTL in a dedicated post in the next few weeks, however for the time being know that entrances to the city center are controlled by cameras and are unmanned, so you won’t know you have been fined until you start getting citations in the mail.
Getting an International Driving License, on the other hand, is a detail often overlooked by many travellers who decide to drive during their holidays in Italy and Rome. If you get pulled over and are found without one, fines can go from 280 EUR to 1400 EUR. A useful discussion about this very law can be read on the community forums over at Rick Steve’s.
- Eating on or by monuments
The international press has given a lot of attention (here, for instance) to the latest ordinance in Florence which allows the local police to fine tourists eating on the steps of houses and landmarks in the city center of the famous Renaissance city. As a matter of fact, the same rule is in effect in Rome as well!
- Flying your drone over the city
Drone lovers, get yourselves acquainted with the local rules before you board your plane to Rome with your expensive gadget! In order to use a drone in Italy, you will have to get a specific license; what’s more, due to the security concerns (among them, the sad realisation that many drones have come down crashing on archaeological sites in the past!) drones can’t fly over the city. The only ones who can must be pre-approved by the authorities (for instance, if you’re a filmmaker meaning to get an aerial shot of the city for a feature film…). Whoever breaches the ban will have its drone seized and will be fined.
Finally, a bonus tip: don’t jaywalk in Rome!
The When in Rome… adagio doesn’t always hold true. Not only jaywalking can get you fined for reckless endangerment, it’s also a false myth about Romans. The traffic in the city has become so pervasive and heavy that what was maybe acceptable 50 or 60 years ago simply can’t be done now, and locals are now extremely careful when they do cross the roads around here. The city has had its share of tragic accidents, some of them very recent, too. That is why we urge you to pay attention whenever you try to cross the streets of the city outside of a zebra crossing as well as within it.