Despite repeated threats, local police seem powerless to stop tourists from taking a plunge into Roman fountains in one of Rome’s hottest summers on record. In the early hours of Thursday, two more visitors were spotted bathing in Bernini’s 17th-century Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi in Piazza Navona.
Rendered famous by Swedish actress Anita Ekberg in the iconic 1960 Fellini film La Dolce Vita, bathing in the monumental Roman fountains seems to be on the bucket list of intrepid Roman visitors, who brave the possibility of steep fines in order to refresh themselves in some of the most beautiful fountains in the world.
In the most celebrated scene of the film, Ekberg—who passed away earlier this year—wades into the Trevi fountain on a quiet night in Rome in a long, strapless black dress while inviting her co-star Marcello Mastroianni to join her, with her sultry “Marcello, come here, hurry up!”
This may not be the experience of today’s fountain crashers, but they, too, will find themselves on screen—albeit unwillingly. The city of Rome has set up closed-circuit televisions to monitor activity in the fountains, enabling security officials to intervene quickly when overheated pilgrims engage in their aquatic hijinks.
In 1999 Italy introduced a law to protect the city’s monuments, with heavy fines for malefactors reaching several hundred euros.
A warning from the Italian Tourist Office said:
While it is understandable that tourists try to cool down during the exceptionally hot weather that Southern Europe is experiencing at the moment, it should be noted that it is illegal in Italy to bathe in historic fountains in Rome as everywhere else as doing so damages a precious and fragile historical heritage and poses a risk to tourists’ health and safety.
Earlier this summer a group of Belgian tourists took a dip in Piazza Navona’s Fontana del Nettuno, and a group of Americans tourists was photographed leaping into the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi, also in Rome’s Piazza Navona.
Facebook postings of the antics drew anger from some who saw the photos.
“Nothing to laugh about. I would fine them,” said Michelle Smith, while Massimiliano-Max added: “I can’t believe this. I would fine them heavily. Shame on you.”
Commenter James Luce wrote that he hoped action would be even more severe, saying: “Throw them in jail. They should have more respect and deserve to be punished.”
Others advocated a more tolerant approach. Ginger Diablo Katz quipped: “I don’t remember seeing signs about not going in the water.”
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome