Italian Local Laws and Customs in Rome

It is important to pay attention to local laws while travelling, there is no quicker way to ruin a great holiday than spending time in a foreign prison. Italy has enacted some new country wide rules, and Rome some specific ones for its city that apply specifically to tourists. This is in order to protect the residents of a city that is flooded with tourists all year round. Here are a list of the main things you’ll need to know as a tourist travelling to Rome:

  • No swimming in the fountains. If you get into the fountain or even dip your feet into the fountain you can be fined 450 euros per person. This applies to all the fountains in Rome, not just the Trevi fountain. The only thing allowed to go into the fountains are coins. In fact there’s a legend that says if visitors hope to return to Rome again they should toss a coin over their left shoulder into the Trevi Fountain.
  • No eating on or near monuments. In a bid to reduce litter around the ancient monuments in Rome they have put a law in place to make it illegal to eat anything on or around monuments. Tourists will face fines of 25 euros up to 500 euros for eating in any of the zones designated as having particular cultural value. This is to make sure the monuments they have come all this way to see are respected by tourists.
  • No driving without an international driving license. Most countries in Europe and around the world allow tourists to drive if they are in possession of a driving license in their country of residence. However in Italy tourists must hold an international driving license to drive if you are not of Italian nationality. Fines can range from 280 euros to 1400 euros if you are caught driving without an international driving license.
  • No driving in the ZTL zones. Rome and other metropolitan cities in Italy have the ZTL system which forbids anyone who isn’t a resident or public transport from driving in the historical city centre of Rome. In general it is more of a hinderance to have a car in Rome if anything. Parking is really expensive and limited in Rome so you will end up spending money to park a car you don’t need. Public transport is plenty and you can buy multi-day tickets which allow you unlimited rides on all forms of public transport. If you are doing a longer road trip drop your car off when you get to Rome and then pick another up when you depart Rome. Alternatively look into trains between cities as the Italian major cities are well connected and very cheap to travel between by train.
  • No jaywalking. With the increase of traffic in Rome in the last couple of decades the streets in the ancient capital have struggled to cope. Unfortunately this means there have been a lot of tragic accidents, some involving pedestrians and cars. Authorities have made the decision to outlaw jaywalking so if you cross a street at a non-designated crossing point you can be fined for reckless endangerment. Look for the zebra crossings or traffic lights to cross. In some busy intersections without crossings you will see police officers directing traffic so wait for their instructions to cross the street.
  • Do not haggle in stores. Unless you are in a market or buying something from a street vendor do not haggle. It is not a particularly enforced law as it would be a difficult one to enforce, however you risk being seen as offensive or rude if you try and haggle in a normal store setting. If you are in an art gallery, antique shop, or buying from a craftsman you can ask for a discount if you are buying multiple items but ask in a respectful way and don’t haggle. In many cases the vendor will automatically give you a discount for purchasing multiple pieces without you having to ask for it.
  • Don’t fly your drone. In Rome city centre drones aren’t allowed to be flown unless you have a specific license and are pre-approved by the authorities. This courtesy is extended to film makers or photographers but very rarely given to tourists wanting the perfect shot for their travel memories. Unfortunately this rule is in place because of security concerns caused by drones getting footage of sensitive areas or disrupting the air space of certain places. Also there have been a few cases where drones have crashed into important monuments in Rome and caused damage. Check the rules before you travel so you can save valuable luggage space for souvenirs.
  • Do not sit on the Spanish Steps. Something that makes sense on so many levels but apparently has to be a law for tourists to do so. Not only does it stop people from blocking a walkway that connects a famous church and the popular shopping destination, but it keeps people moving through one of the busiest tourist points in the city. The Spanish Steps have been recently restored for 1.7 million euros so it is not surprising that the city is committed to protecting its monuments.
  • Do not roll your wheeled suitcases everywhere in Rome. Due to the cobbled streets in Rome it is really difficult to navigate around with a wheeled suitcase in the first place. Not only that but it causes a lot of noise and can damage the ancient cobbled streets. It is unclear whether the law outlaws all wheeled luggage, because that would be unreasonable, but tourists should consider catching taxis or using shuttle buses or transfers to get from the airport to their hotel so they are not travelling great distances with a wheeled suitcase.
  • Do not touch your mouth to the nozzle while drinking out of a water fountain. This law will doubtless give a lot of people peace of mind if they drink from water fountains. In Rome you can be fined if you are caught touching your mouth to the nozzle while drinking from the water fountain. It is unclear how this law will be policed, but it is generally good manners. 
  • No drinking on the street at night. Rome and Venice have enacted laws prohibiting drinking in the streets after dark. Exceptions are made for outdoor areas of a bar of course. This laws is made to protect the residents of these cities to ensure they are not disturbed by rowdy tourists in residential areas.
  • Do not busk. Busking isn’t allowed in public spaces or on public transport in the city.
  • No love locks allowed. Due to issues caused by the extra weight of hundreds of love locks in popular European cities, most of them have outlawed the placing of love locks. Rome and Venice are two of these such cities.
  • Pay city tax. Similar to other European cities, tourists have to pay a city tax in all Italian cities. These taxes are paid in destination to the hotel in cash, they can’t be prepaid. The taxes are compulsory and used for the upkeep of tourist infrastructure and the restoration and preservation of monuments.
  • Don’t touch your genitals in public. Bad news for men, it’s not just bad social etiquette but thanks to a Supreme Court ruling in the last few years touching your genitals in public is a criminal offence.
  • Buying counterfeit goods, even without knowing is a criminal offence. Be careful when buying “designer” goods at street vendors, buying counterfeit goods is illegal as in every other country. In Rome though there are plenty of vendors who are selling designer goods at really low cost. If you are seen to be buying counterfeit goods or in possession of counterfeit goods, even if you didn’t know they were counterfeit, you could be fined.