However, this is no longer the case, as authorities in the Italian capital have been accused of enforcing ‘fascist style’ measures to prevent visitors from sitting on the 18th century marble steps.
Police began patrolling the staircase on Tuesday (6 Aug), and have been shouting, blowing whistles and shooing tourists away when they attempt to take a rest and sit down on the Unesco world heritage site.
Larger fines for dirtying the steps
A number of new rules enforced by the Italian government in June mean that simply sitting on the steps could now incur a €250 fine, and damaging or dirtying them in any way could mean you are charged a hefty €400.
Other rules introduced at the start of the summer included bans on “messy eating” near monuments, paddling in fountains, and walking around shirtless.
Vittorio Sgarbi, a controversial art critic and former deputy minister of culture, told AdnKronos news agency, “Protecting a monument is fine, and obviously you shouldn’t eat on the steps, but the ban on sitting down is really excessive.
“It seems to me to be a fascist-style provision that the municipality will be forced to review.”
Others have criticised the ban of sitting on the steps, saying that it would potentially drive tourists away from Rome’s iconic monuments.
At the time when the rules were introduced, statement from mayor Virginia Raggi’s office said that they were being implemented to “promote respect for common goods, public spaces, commercial rules and decorum, both among citizens and tourists.”
The Spanish Steps were designed by the architect Francesco de Sanctis between 1723 and 1726.
They underwent a significant €1.5m restoration in 2016, which was funded by the luxury jeweller, Bulgari.
Similar rules to the ones in Rome are in place elsewhere in Italy too. Police patrol the porticos around St Mark’s Square in Venice, and two German tourists were fined €950 and asked to leave when they were caught preparing coffee on the Rialto Bridge in the city.