In Rome, is the Trevi Fountain threatened by tourism? – World Meanderings (n°66)
By Annick Dournes & Frederic de Poligny
After Barcelona or Venice, Rome complains about the increasing nuisance caused by too many tourists cramming into its most iconic sites, especially fountains. Due to a hot summer many tourists tried to bath in heritage fountains’ waters, regardless of the consequences. The police are on full alert and fines are pouring out. The Trevi fountain is under watch, day and night!
Everyone remembers “La Dolce Vita”, the 1960 film by Federico Fellini and even those who never saw this movie have seen or heard of its most famous scene where Anita Ekberg, bathing in the Trevi fountain, sweetly asks Marcello Mastroianni to join her. But this is not allowed anymore. Last year Virginia Raggi, the mayor of Rome, signed an order forbidding bathing in all Rome historical fountains. Since then eating close to a fountain, dangling feet in the water and of course bathing can be punishable by a fine of Euros 40-240.
But of course nowadays discipline is not the most widely shared thing in the world and even if a minority of tourists behaves badly, local people resent all visitors. As in the 5th century when Visigoths sacked Rome, Romans get the feeling that hordes of tourists invade their city and damage it. Tourism in itself isn’t a problem, but brawls, incivilities, graffiti and illegal baths obviously are.
The baroque Trevi fountain was built in the 18th century in Rome historical centre and has been renovated 3 years ago. Fendi, the renowned Italian fashion house, financed this 2-million Euros project and the fountain now is in perfect condition. Set in a maze of small streets that quickly get congested with uncontrolled tourist flows, the site is a victim of its own success. Fifteen policemen ensure a 24/7 watch and they are busy day and night. Many people wish to take the best selfies and are ready to fight to get the best spot. Some of them even come to blows just to make a picture!
In mid-August a Canadian couple tried to bath in the fountain in the middle of the night and were stopped by the police. They nevertheless tried again a few hours later and jumped into the water right in front of the policemen… and received a Euros-450 fine! During the month of August alone a dozen of such “events” occur in different Rome’s historical fountains. More and more tourists as well complain that there are too many people around the Trevi fountain, making it difficult to enjoy a serene visit of the site. Local authorities consider creating a controlled access to the small streets that lead to the Trevi fountain and limit the number of tourists able to be on the piazza on the same time. As restrictive as it might be this could well be the only solution. Stay tuned for new developments!
Text ©Annick Dournes
Photos ©Frederic de Poligny