Drama at the Spanish Steps
Whistling! Followed by words and hand gestures, you cannot sit here!. The special tourism police are telling the individuals and the crowd on this stairway. This is the famous Spanish steps. It connects to the church of Trinita dei Monti from Piazza di Spagna in the historic heart of Rome. Its evening time around 8pm. The 135 steps are practically deserted, People would normally be resting and taking pictures on them. But now however, tourist police are patrolling the stairs moving people along.
The tourist police are a part of the latest Roman crackdown on human behaviour in the city. Under the new rule’s almost every activity will attract a fine. From wading into fountains to putting your mouth too close to a public tap!. It is almost as if human beings are not to use the city. Behaving “badly” can result in a possible short-term banning.
Tensions with the locals ?
It may appear to tourists that the police are acting overzealously with the clampdowns. This however is not the case for everyone in the city. Interviews with some of the locals seem to suggest a different perspective. Anna Vincenzoni, local councillor, supporting the development explained to Adnkronos agency.
so long as some tourists -not-all- continue to behave excessively, like those who damage the colosseum by carving their names into it or bathe in our historic fountains.
Another local, the head of a local resident’s association Gianni Battistoni, as reported by Vincenzo Pinto also in support of the development quipped.
The steps are a work of art and you don’t sit on works of art” … “people come, pass through and leave. We can finally say the steps have been given back to the city.
This indicates ongoing tensions between locals and tourists.
A Political Anxiety
The long-renowned lounging on the steps inspired by the 1953 movie Roman Holiday could now cost as much as €400. In Federico Fellini’s La Dolce vita, Anita Ekberg’s famous splash could also now cost her as much as €400. There has also been a banning of the Faux Roman centurions who pose for pictures.Vittorio Sgarbi accused the roman authorities of applying fascist-style measures. Vittorio, controversial art critic and former deputy minister of culture, described the ban as “really excessive” in an interview with Adnkronos.
These are the new rules, passed by Rome’s government which is controlled by the five-star movement. The five star movement had been accused by many in the country of moving further to the right wing when it blocked a parliamentary policy that would have banned fascist salutations. Accusations of fascism are always quick to fly in the country that invented the phenomenon. There are however similarities in the five star movements messianic theme of liberation for the betrayed. A government that is led by a party that is anti-immigration and aligning itself with many far-right ideas.
A thin line between Protection and desolation
Rome has been trying to control its tourists for many years. In 2012, the mayor, Gianni Alemenno passed regulations to deter people from eating on monuments. It was, however, still okay to sit then. Many critics including locals believe that the new ban on sitting is a step too far. The roman newspaper Il messaggero described the empty stairs as an image of desolation, rather than one of strength. Still, with the steps off limits, shop owners have had to hire private security to prevent people from sitting around their shops to eat which further exacerbates the situation. The whole situation appearing and becoming more unsustainable.
The Spanish steps have always been more than mere steps, they are a meeting node and a place to rest for the city.
Natalie, a local and travel writer describes the ban as reeking of Bulgari influence. Bulgari is the brand that paid for the restoration of the stairs in 2017, however they do not own the stairs and as such cannot dictate how the stairs should be used. In 2017, Paolo Bulgari, the Brand owner was quoted suggesting that the stairs should be closed at certain times.
Urban space for human use
The stairs may be beautiful but is also a practical part of city planning. The ban on sitting on the steps is upsetting as Rome is a of city of delight. Of course the city is to be respected but also enjoyed. The presence of tourist police whistling at people, ironically only serves to drain the lifeblood of the city.
The Italian capital like Venice has been grappling with the side effects of over-tourism for years. However some locals say the new push to enforce a sitting ban is “foolishness” according to Elizabeth Schumacher. Other locals such as Emilia Giorgi have also expressed their dissatisfaction with the whole development, she explained
“The city is not a painting or a sculpture- it is a place to live for all. The most important quality of the Italian city is precisely this idea of public space and sharing…Roman architecture is basically designed for people. Without them it becomes an object in vitrine…”
There is an old saying about lunacy being the first step on the journey to ruin. Although it is difficult to say whether fascism could return. It is clear that the current political fragilities would only worsen the situation. Italy’s slow-moving economy is increasing the visibility of far-right ideas. The idea that urban core of european cities might turn into desolate museums doesn’t seem far fetched. For now, “I was just sitting there doing nothing” won’t get you out of a mess if you’re caught sitting on the steps. But don’t let the harsher policies dampen your spirit, Rome still has a bunch to offer and Gelato is easy on the move.
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The spanish Steps is a major node in Rome.- Chernov, M. (n.d.). The Spanish Steps, the Piazza di Spagna, Sallustiano obelisk agains background of the Church of the Santissima TrinitГ dei Monti. Rome, Italy. http://mstyslav-chernov.com/. Available at: http://mstyslav-chernov.com/ [Accessed 12 Jan. 2020].
The Bernini Fountain, during my time in Rome. – Authors own work, (Muhammad Ogunniyi, 2019)
The steps used to be a great example of good urban design. – Green, P.J.S. (n.d.). The Spanish Steps and the church of Trinita dei Monti seen from the Piazza di Spagna in Rome. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Spanish_Steps_%26_Trinita_dei_Monti_from_Piazza_di_Spagna_Rome.jpg#metadata. Available at: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Spanish_Steps_%26_Trinita_dei_Monti_from_Piazza_di_Spagna_Rome.jpg#metadata [Accessed 12 Jan. 2020].