Why An American Tourist Was Fined For Eating Ice Cream In Rome

Eating on the go may not be a big deal in the United States, but in some countries like Japan, eating while walking is generally frowned upon. According to Lonely Planet, it's considered disrespectful to one's food in Japanese culture because you can't appreciate it while walking. But other countries take that philosophy even further. For instance, in Italy, eating, drinking, and loitering around areas designated as UNESCO heritage sites isn't just frowned upon, it is illegal. Fines can go as high as around $450 as they did for one American visitor in Rome, according to The Guardian

The Guardian says the man, who reportedly had ice cream in one hand and a beer in the other, had wandered into the vicinity of the Fontana dei Catecumeni, a centuries-old fountain located at the heart of a square in Rome's Monti neighborhood. Because the area wasn't taped off as it normally would be, the man decided it would be okay to take a seat by the fountain to enjoy his meal. That's when the police pounced on him for breaking the law of what is known as "urban decorum." A fine was issued after the man refused to move even after he had been warned.

The tourist had violated an urban decorum law

Laws in Italy covering "urban decorum" were passed back in 2019, and are seen as an update of statutes that were passed in 1946, per the Library of Congress. These laws include a ban on street drinking, bar hopping (aka "pub crawls"), or swimming in designated city fountains. Dressing like a centurion is also banned as is drinking out of a glass container in a public area after 10 p.m., according to CNN Travel. Rome's city council said the rules are "to deal with many aspects of city life, with particular attention on respecting the artistic and cultural heritage of the capital."

We've all heard stories of tourists vandalizing historical sites either by spray painting or carving their initials onto the wall. Tourists have also been caught committing indecent acts, stealing a souvenir from a historic site, or even damaging exhibitions, according to Insider. So perhaps, enjoying ice cream and a beer may not be as egregious as it might appear in the grand scheme of things. But the law is still the law, and "Ignorantia juris neminem excusat" or "ignorance of the law excuses no one," as translated by Merriam-Webster

And as for the tourist, it may be a while before he enjoys food and drink in public again.