The last time I was sitting on the Spanish Steps in Rome it was about midnight, and Rami and I were at the top of them eating gelato with almost no one else around. A few people passed by, but we had the place, the view, the steps, almost to ourselves. After so many times climbing up and down those stairs and scrambling over tourists and trash with a pack of students behind me, I had lost sight of the beauty of the stairs and why they were considered a sight to see in the first place. They had been ruined – smothered in tourists. That last night a few summers back made me remember. The lights were gleaming and the stairs cascaded elegantly down into a somehow silent piazza. My favorite fountain was glowing that haze of blue that I believe only exists in Roman fountains, the church behind us the perfect backdrop to the painting that this piazza was made to be, and I knew this was how people were supposed to see these architectural marvels – without a swarming mass of tourism crawling all over them.
This year the steps and the Romans have had enough. There’s a new ban in Rome. No sitting on the steps. Now, I haven’t been to Rome physically and I am only taking into consideration news reports, but it seems that Rome is actually backing up their story – and people in yellow vests have been seen asking people to leave if they break the no-sit rule. This is further than Florence went with their sandwich ban, and last summer they were hosing down the steps of churches so people wouldn’t sit, but I haven’t heard of them enforcing that this year. (If anything people would probably appreciate the water hosing down the stones. It’s been too hot to sit on.)
Some are up in arms over the ban – saying it’s too strict, but I agree with it. They aren’t blocking off the stairs – just asking you to keep moving along. No Instagram fashion shoots, no wine bottles that spill or smash into a thousand pieces. Just experience it. Take in how pretty it is. Walk down them and pretend you’re a princess if you want to, a billionaire, whatever you want. Just don’t sit.