Vacationing in Tuscany? In a summer of bans, beware the fines!

All over Italy local laws have sprung up prohibiting one thing or another, and the risk is taking home a hefty fine as a souvenir

It is well known that Italians are specialists in making laws and rules (and, unfortunately, just as good in not respecting them). So when the Berlusconi government gave the go-ahead to town mayors to create local laws to face the so-called “security emergency”, these didn’t wait to be told twice! In many cities in the Bel Paese, a series of new rules and regulations have been approved and anyone coming to vacation in Italy will do well to know about some of them, especially since many of these regard common behaviors such as eating a sandwich or taking a nap, feeding pigeons or getting a massage on the beach. The Independent in a recent article pokes fun of Italians and put tourists on guard with this article: “Tourists Beware: If it is fun, Italy has a law against it“. Tuscany is no exception. On some of our beaches it is now against the law to have an improvised massage often offered by immigrant masseuses to sunbathers. On a few beaches, there are even bans against “beach” activities such as beach soccer and racketball and even sandcastles!

This is in addition to the ban against the hawkers that went from beach umbrella to beach umbrella selling bracelets and sarongs (as well as false brand merchandise) and that are no longer allowed on beaches. In Florence, it is even prohibited for them to walk around with their products within closed duffel bags.

According to the Independent, Lucca has imposed a ban against feeding crumbs to pigeons where “you could end up hundreds of euros poorer.” In Viareggio it is against the law to rest your feet on the park benches or to skateboard along the beach boardwalk, and if you wander away from the beach in only boxers or a bikini, you’re breaking the law. In Forte dei Marmi it is forbidden to use the lawnmower on the weekends (deemed to be too loud)!

In Florence, the city administration has declared zero tolerance to several signs of urban blight. It is thus illegal to clean the windscreens of cars waiting at traffic lights, as well as beg on the sidewalks. Actually, it is illegal for anyone to lay on the street at all but, better still, it is now illegal to beg at all in many Italian cities. You should also know it is against the law to try to freshen up on a hot summer day by dipping your feet or anything else in public fountains – so if you wanted to recreate the scene of Anita Ekberg bathing in Rome’s Trevi Fountain as portrayed in “La Dolce Vita”, forget about it!

It is also against the rules to eat a sandwich while seating down on the steps in front of the Duomo or to lay down or eat on public land although the law was recently changed to allow eating on public land just as long as it isn’t in an indecent manner (see the article on Repubblica, in Italian: il panino va mangiato con stile). It is also against the rules to dump any trash, including cigarette butts, on the ground: an Italian from Catania a few days ago was fined 160 euros for having dropped a piece of paper trash in downtown Florence. The fine can double if one refuses to pick up the trash. You should also remember to not lock your bicycle to any of the barriers surrounding monuments or where it is in the way, because once again you’ll be faced with a fine. There are a few other prohibitions that apply only to Florentine residents, such as hanging your wet laundry to dry out of windows that face the street since they reduce the decorum of the building.

Some of these bans make sense, others do not (what’s so bad about massages on the beach or sandcastles?) The most confusing part is that some things not allowed in one city are perfectly legal in another and vice versa. Many of these bans are destined to not being enforced, on the one hand because policemen might use a bit of common sense and, on the other, it is likely that many of these rules will be rethought and canceled from the books. Above all, it is laughable (as long as you’re not the one caught throwing that piece of trash on the ground; in that case, I am sure you’re not laughing) that politicians think it is necessary to create all these rules to define the behavior of civil cohabitation. I don’t think, as the Independent implies, that us Italians, or even tourists here on vacation, are children in need of a policeman-babysitter that distributes fines. I believe fewer but clear rules are enough, maybe those that already existed but that no policeman enforced up to now were more than sufficient.
Along with a normal sense of civic duty.

About Stefano Romeo

Stefano is a native from Florence but with a quarter of Sienese blood in his DNA and many years living in Pisa is a true Tuscan. He is still learning that his homeland has many corners and hidden gems he has to discover, ones he particularly enjoys seeing from the saddle of his bike.