By Philip Pullella
ROME (Reuters) – You can walk up and down Rome’s famed Spanish Steps all you want but don’t try sitting down to take in the moment any more because police will shoo you away with a whistle and threaten you with a fine.
City authorities have imposed a new ban at the site, beloved of tourists and immortalised in the 1953 romantic comedy “Roman Holiday” with Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn.
They say too many people sit down for too long, obstructing the steps for others, or stop to eat lunches from nearby fast food joints.
Not everyone was happy with the attempt to restore order, which began this week.
“I think it’s ridiculous, silly,” said Thomas Atkins, an American tourist from Seattle, as he watched police blow whistles to move people on.
“You’re only going to rest for a little while on the stone anyway and you eventually move along,” he said on Thursday.
Vittorio Sgarbi, one of Italy’s best known art critics, called the move “Fascist-like.”
Fines for those who do not obey police range from 160 to 400 euros ($180-450). But so far, no signs have been put up informing tourists about the ban, leaving police a lot to whistle about.
Italian tourist Federico Guerrinoni, from northern Italy, said he agreed with the ban.
“I know it will bother some people, but you could see something like this coming,” he said. “There were a lot of disrespectful people who were taking pieces of monuments. So a bit of protection won’t hurt,” he said.
The 135 steps were built in 1726 to link the piazza at their base with the Church of the Most Holy Trinity at the top of the Pincio Hill.
Italians know them as “La Scalinata (Staircase) di Trinità dei Monti,” a reference to the church at the top. In English, they are known as the Spanish Steps because the Spanish embassy to the Vatican is located at their base.
(Additional reporting by Antonio Denti; Editing by Frances Kerry)