Amid a beautiful fall day under crystal clear blue skies, Rome’s Spanish Steps reopened after a $1.6 million refurbishment. The steps, known to Italy vacationers worldwide who often sit while eating a sandwich, became dirty and sullied after years of neglect.
In fact, the white marble stairs, and Rome’s other treasures were so neglected by Rome sightseers that in 2012 the city outlawed eating and drinking on the steps. “It is forbidden to encamp or erect makeshift shelters and stop to eat or drink in zones which have a particular historic or architectural value,” the ordinance adopted by Rome city council read. This edict was a little too late as the stairs, and many other Rome sightseeing sites, were already sticky from soda pop and displaced, or should we say misplaced, gum, the remains of food and other nastiness that turned the stairs’ color gray.
While the economic crisis grips Italy, Rome’s city government reached out to Italy’s world famous Made in Italy fashion houses to sponsor by paying for the cleaning of Rome’s famous monuments and artistic treasures. The world famous high-end luxury goods maker Bulgari stepped up and sponsored the Spanish Steps cleaning and refurbishment project.
Some argued, including Bulgari’s Chairman Paolo Bulgari, that the steps should not open again to the public who he said turned them into “an open-air sewer.” Bulgari added “We cannot leave it to the barbarians who eat and drink there, making it dirty. People should be able to stroll up and down it but they shouldn’t be allowed to use it like the steps of a stadium, sitting for hours, getting drunk and throwing their cigarette butts on the ground,” he added. Despite his harsh criticism of the deplorable public, of course, the stairs are once again open for your trip to Rome. Rome’s Mayor Virginia Raggi said during the opening that she didn’t think a fence was needed. “It’s fundamental to let people use cultural heritage sites,” she said, adding that visitors and Romans alike must be educated to use them responsibly. It’s our guess the 2012 law will continue to be enforced so that people do not use the steps for open air picknicking.
The 138 steps date back to the 18th century. Today they link the Trinita dei Monti Church at the top to the Piazza di Spagna below. The steps we made famous to Americans in the movie Roman Holiday. In the film, Gregory Peck stayed at a hotel just around the corner on the Via Giulia. He and Audrey Hepburn walked the Spanish Steps while she enjoyed an ice cream… maybe forever instilling the idea in Rome vacationers that the steps were meant to be enjoyed while eating a snack.