/Flash Mob Against Roman Ordinance

Flash Mob Against Roman Ordinance

Protester being ticketed €50.

Do no harm. If only that were the driving force behind Roman city policies. During the past decade in Rome, I have watched the city’s monuments decay. Water infiltration, neglect, vandalism, inept management, and vehicle pollution are real problems with tangible impact on Rome’s architectural patrimony. The city fails to protect its architectural treasures; it even permits and licenses massive fume-spewing buses to park among ruins. So pardon me if I find it absurd and unnecessary to ban eating a slice of pizza on Michelangelo’s Cordonata or having a gelato on the benches in front of Palazzo Farnese. These acts in and of themselves do no harm. On the contrary, they support small local businesses which do not provide space for partons to eat take away food.

For this reason, I joined the flash mob at the Campidoglio yesterday (you can see the video here). I came strapped with crochette and suppli’ from Antico Forno Roscioli, one of the supporters of the event. Six of the nearly 300 protesters were fined €50 each for sitting on the steps to eat; the penalties were paid by the crowd. The vigili (Rome’s city police who make better punchlines than law enforcers) were out in numbers enforcing the new ordinance. (I wonder if they ever fine each other for throwing cigarette butts on the ground?)

So what does the law say exactly? The preamble defines the historical center of Rome as a crucial element of cultural patrimony and charges local government with the responsability to protect said area (too bad they fail willfully and miserably for reasons stated above).

It also says that the historical center has a lot of trash and dangerous liquids all over it from people eating and drinking on the streets and that this causes permanent damage (There is trash. No doubt. But it does not damage monuments and it is already illegal to leave it behind. Depriving everyone the use of the city’s public spaces for a basic Roman practice is nonsensical. And in case Alemanno hasn’t noticed, the Colosseum facade is marred by soot and graffiti, not gelato.).

The ordinance states that it is now against the law to sit down and eat or drink anywhere in the historical center. Banning eating and drinking is not the solution. Ticketing people who violate the law by littering and leaving a mess is. That includes the vigili themselves who flick cigarette butts all over their precious patrimony.

The city’s piazzas, steps, and fountains were made to be used by the people. These public spaces were commissioned by Popes, cardinals, nobles families and the like so residents and visitors both could socialize and gather. And, yes, even eat! So I will continue to live this city as I always have (indeed as all Rome dwellers always have). I will eat on its steps and benches and, in accordance with existing laws, I will clean up after myself like a responsable person. In the meantime, the vigili and Alemanno can continue to ignore real issues.

2017-02-17T15:17:15+00:00 October 7th, 2012|Categories: Culture, Food & Wine, Gastronomic Traditions, Rome & Lazio|20 Comments


  1. Sarah May (AntiquaTours) October 7, 2012 at 6:34 pm - Reply

    Brava Katie, you make so many excellent point here, too many to point out in a comment.

  2. Sarah May (AntiquaTours) October 7, 2012 at 6:37 pm - Reply

    Also what about the poor horses that shit and piss all over the city. They are still legal despite our efforts against it. Why do I have the feeling that Eataly is somehow behind this? Like we’ll all hav to go there to eat and walk around at the same time.

  3. Marina October 7, 2012 at 8:02 pm - Reply

    Right on. I have a sudden urge to jump on a plane to Rome with the express goal of consuming huge amounts of delicious panini, pizza a taglio and gelato as I stroll the historic center. This is definitely a city government trying to ignore everything else that is so wrong about Rome (and I say this as someone who loves and knows the city.).

  4. Tom October 7, 2012 at 9:15 pm - Reply

    I agree with Sarah, lots of excellent points. What might have been another rule in the crowded books, a rule (which police could close an eye to in most cases, (thus doing “offenders” a favor in return for other favors) is instead stirring up civic outrage. This could be the beginning of something.

  5. Heidi October 8, 2012 at 12:45 am - Reply

    Excellent summary Katie! Brava for caring and getting involved! You make a compelling case for the absurdity of this ordinance. What’s next?

  6. Anonymous October 8, 2012 at 12:50 am - Reply

    […] the Daily Telegraph and NBC, titling this a law against "tourists"). Here's her post: Flash Mob Against Roman Ordinance There's also been a lively discussion about this over on Chowhound. __________________ Follow […]

  7. Sarah May (@AntiquaTours) October 8, 2012 at 8:50 am - Reply

    From ETTORE: Grande Katie !

  8. Zvia Shwirtz October 8, 2012 at 10:54 am - Reply

    This new ban is just the most absurd thing I have ever heard of. Ever. I constantly see Italians and Italian officials (cops) littering EVERYWHERE. Not to mention how much this country lets its historical landmarks fall apart… First the ban on drinking outdoors after 11 PM and now this? Truly insane. Why don’t they concentrate on issues that would really make a difference in Rome?!

  9. Liz October 8, 2012 at 11:03 am - Reply

    crazily ridiculous! what will happen when people are not allowed to drink water on the streets in summer??

  10. Hassane 'Sean' October 8, 2012 at 11:06 am - Reply

    I’ve been going to Rome for over 10 years now… I am so in love with that city it’s not normal.
    I think the problem is crowd control. the amount of tourists (and locals) eating around the center is not something any government can control. (we are talking about thousands daily). so maybe this is a start… maybe by banning food (even though there are the horse shit, cigarettes, random garbage, fumes and other forms of visual and regular pollution) maybe it is step one towards fixing everything else.
    … or maybe I am totally mistaken and this is just a random italian law like many of those random laws. It WILL be modified though… ppl will never stop eating on the streets…

    • Katie October 8, 2012 at 11:43 am - Reply

      You are on to something here Sean! I am 1000% in favor of limiting the number of visitors to Rome. The city, State, and Vatican profit off the millions of visitors annually while they do not reinvest in maintenance for damage done by these visitors. Each tourist and resident does damage to the city of Rome due to their cumulative volume. Bus tours and large cruise ship groups should be the first to go!

  11. Douglas October 8, 2012 at 12:22 pm - Reply

    If the Mayor of Rome wishes to undertake a cleaning project, perhaps he should begin with cleaning up the corrupt public administration and politicians.

    The tourists that visit Rome in droves are very respectful of this fine city, and are the very reason that Rome is still alive. What message are they going to take back to their homeland, when telling friends and family that they received a €50 fine for eating a gelato while admiring a monument.

    Although the Mayor signed off on this new law, it took a group to enact it. These are our leaders? Perhaps they should have thought this through a bit further.

  12. Mick P October 8, 2012 at 1:46 pm - Reply

    Oh, the vigili, what a bunch of comics. So they’re busy enforcing this ridiculous bit of piffle while at the same time (and this list is by no means comprehensive): ignoring indiscriminate ‘parking’ that blocks pedestrian crossings, obstructs pavements or blocks dropped kerbs making wheelchair access impossible; are blind to the way many scooter and motorcycle riders think that the stripes at pedestrian crossings are actually the place to for them to wait for the lights to change, if indeed they bother to wait at all; walk past the bags of domestic rubbish or recycling left on the pavement at the side of the waste bins not because the bins are full, but because certain people are far too lazy to actually put the stuff IN the bin. That’s not to mention the TVs, fridges, cupboards, mattresses, bed frames etc abandoned in the street. And how about the thousands and thousands of fliers left every day under windscreen wipers, only to be thrown on the ground when the driver returns? These are things that have a real impact on Rome’s population and visitors and much of which also has implications for the safety of us all. But God forbid that a slice of tomato or some pizza crumbs fall on a baroque step. Good grief. Penalise those that leave a mess, but otherwise, get your priorities right, you muppets.

  13. Sarah May (AntiquaTours) October 8, 2012 at 3:51 pm - Reply

    Muppets. What a great insult! But isn’t it insulting to the muppets?

  14. Katie October 9, 2012 at 1:35 pm - Reply

    yes what a bunch of muppets (which is fifth greatest word in the british english language, after 4 i cannot mention here for fear of scandalizing my mother). this law, which as tom points out, may easily have gone unnoticed in the pile of other laws passed by the campidoglio has caught everyone’s attention because food is involved.

    the law has also brought up the very valid argument that if THIS measure is meant to protect roman patrimony why aren’t other more practical laws properly enforced.

    here are some some recent developments:

    the mayor made an AMAZING and HIGH BUDGET video : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qSWepQNMHEw

    yeah there is trash on the spanish steps because there are few bins. if the mayor is so interested in protecting the precious scalinata (which i personally could do without, anyone else?) from food, why not ALSO limit the number of people that walk on it and ACTUALLY damage the steps by eroding them with foot steps. i mean honestly! anyway, the back peddling mayor “clarified” the law in yesterday’s video release, saying he was not against eating panini on the street and no one would be stopped for doing so (although 6 people were ticketed at saturday’s flashmob).

    so, the mayor says on youtube that he is not persecuting panino consumption in public places, but the LAW says otherwise.

    and to clarify, the law is targeted at people sitting down to eat. the act of eating is not itself illegal, but sitting on benches and steps to do so is.

  15. Terry October 9, 2012 at 4:14 pm - Reply

    Brillant post. I can’t get my head around what a complete disaster Alemanno is proving to be. I mean I can, this being Rome and him being a fascist, but some of the stuff he does boggles the mind. Why is he tackling the ‘menace’ of people eating in public and curbing drinking hours in a city with almost no drunken violence when I can think of a million things more important off the top of my head:

    Illegal parking – in my neighbourhood (near Viale Marconi) triple parking is not uncommon, and the coppers are doing absolutely nothing about it. Ever.
    Piles of rubbish everywhere – This summer my street stank of dogshit and stale piss because their was hardly any effort to tidy the place up.

    ok, so that’s two. But there are loads more. LOADS

  16. Toni October 9, 2012 at 6:41 pm - Reply

    Would it be possible to be more specific about the areas where this law applies? My husband and I are headed to Rome at the end of November, and I don’t want to end up being fined for the ridiculous. Thanks!

  17. […] in the ‘centro storico’ by ex-neofascist Mayor Giovanni Alemanno (you can read all about it on Parlafood) and the prospect of the upcoming local elections early next year are a good reason to speak out […]

  18. […] (New York Times), Anti Bivaco è ordinanza per tutelare monumenti (Il Livello), and food blogger Katie Parla’s thoughts on the ordinance. Share this:Like this:LikeBe the first to like […]

  19. Rome on a Budget: Pastificio December 1, 2012 at 6:48 pm - Reply

    […] Mistake number two came shortly after, when we took our food to the Spanish Steps. As soon as we sat down, a police officer rudely told us to get up and move along. A recently passed ordinance prohibits eating on or around Rome’s monuments. […]

Leave A Comment

You are currently not connected to the internet