The Weirdest Laws in Italy

by Jessica on September 8, 2008

by | September 8th, 2008  

I like to say that Italy invented red tape. It certainly seems that way to anyone who’s attempted to navigate the murky waters of the Italian bureaucracy to do just about anything.

But even I had to chuckle out loud when I read about some of these crazy Italian laws.

Some of them are nation-wide, while others are limited to certain cities. And while I’m sure many of them are completely ignored by both locals and tourists, the risk of being arrested or fined is probably enough to keep me from building sandcastles near Venice or feeding the pigeons in Lucca!

  • In Italy, a court recently declared that men are not allowed to touch their own genitals in public. And while this action stems from the long-held belief that grabbing one’s crotch will ward off bad luck, the Italian court saw the behavior as a bit lewd. I seriously doubt the ruling has created any real change, however.
  • In Italy, although it may not technically be illegal to bathe or swim in public fountains, you’ll pay a hefty fine for doing so. And, of course, if you decide to hop into the Trevi naked, you’ll also risk public humiliation on the internet.
  • In Milan, a city law requires locals to constantly be smiling or risk being fined. (Attendants at funerals and visitors to hospitals are thoughtfully exempt from said law.)
  • In Eboli, lovers can be fined as much as €500 for getting their groove on in a car. This in the same country where another city set up a parking lot specifically for young people to have sex in? Really? I really am surprised by that one.
  • In Rome, the keeping of goldfish as pets was declared cruel in 2005 and goldfish bowls were banned. There’s no report on whether Rome’s then goldfish-owning residents set their fishy friends free in the city’s fountains, or whether they would have incurred the aforementioned fine for doing so.
  • In Italy, a man can be arrested if he’s wearing a skirt. Let this be a warning to all you Scots who are trying to figure out what to pack for your trip to Rome. Should you bring the kilt? The answer is no.
  • In Lucca, it’s illegal to feed the pigeons in the city center. Honestly, I have nothing witty or remotely amusing to say about this one, because personally I love this law. (Venice more recently enacted a similar law in an effort to keep the pigeons that crowded St. Mark’s Square from further destroying the buildings in the area, although the pigeon food vendors were none too happy about it.)
  • Also in Lucca, a more recent – and more troubling – law forbids the opening of kebab shops in the historic center. The law was championed by the xenophobic Lega Nord, and is a not-so-subtle message to non-Italians.
  • In Turin, dog owners can be fined heavily unless they walk their dogs at least three times a day. Now if only someone in Italy would enact (and enforce) a law requiring dog owners to pick up after their dogs so the rest of us don’t have to dodge doggy droppings on the sidewalks, I’d be a happy camper.
  • In Eraclea, it’s illegal to build sandcastles on the beach. This new law from a town near Venice may just be reactionary, as they don’t necessarily want to be reminded of the crumbling canal city nearby – but whaddo I know?
  • In Lerici, it’s illegal to hang a towel out of a window to dry it. The fact that Lerici is a town on the Italian Riviera means that the likelihood of someone needing to dry a towel and hanging it out a window is good. Tourists, be warned.
  • In Rome, groups of three people or more are not allowed to sing, drink, dance, or eat in the streets of the city, lest they want to face a €500 fine. So, folks, if you feel like doing any of that singing, dancing, eating or drinking in the streets of Rome, make sure you’re only doing it in groups of two.
  • Also in Rome, it’s illegal to eat or drink anywhere outdoors in the historic center. Hmm, maybe this is why all those Italian women are so incredibly thin? They’re not allowed to eat, well, anywhere?
  • In Novara, it’s illegal for groups of any more than two people to hang out in parks after dark. Something tells me that groups of two people can get into trouble in the park at night (just ask the folks in Eboli), but be that as it may, in Novara you’ll want to make sure you’re not hanging around with that big group of friends after the sun goes down.
  • In Italy, although men may not be allowed to grab their own crotch, the pinching of a woman’s behind is not illegal. This, I daresay, will not come as a giant shock.

UPDATE: My blogging friend Tui sent me a note about a great new weird law to add to this list; it’s not been put into widespread practice yet, but one town in Northern Italy is apparently going “to create a DNA database of all registered dogs and then test droppings left on pavements and in parks to identify the culprit and fine owners who fail to clean up after their pets.” Yes, you read that right – we’re talking about DNA samples of dogs and then DNA tests on dog poop. I love Italy…

>> Do you know of any weird laws in Italy? Have you seen anyone get fined or arrested for doing any of the things listed above? Send me an email or leave a comment below!

Thanks to several websites for many of these tidbits, including My Melange, The Guardian, Reuters, and Shaun Aisbitt.

photo by steakpinpall


{ 8 comments }

Joan Schmelzle September 8, 2008 at 9:08 am
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I wonder who all thos Italian speaking people were who I saw eating gelato and munching on pizza slices last time I was in Rome ( and in the historical center)!

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Jessica September 8, 2008 at 11:11 am
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I’ve heard that the law is intended to target illegal immigrants, & so the application of the law isn’t exactly 100% equal for everyone. I’m not surprised it’s being blatantly disobeyed. :)

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antux93 September 27, 2008 at 7:35 am
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In Novara, it’s illegal for groups of any more than two people to hang out in parks after dark. <– also in Padova xDDD do you know that this law already existed in the ancient rome?^^
bye

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caleb ko May 12, 2009 at 7:33 am
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you can be fined 20000 euro if you are in a car crash:-):) :( :-(

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Sadie September 23, 2010 at 12:50 pm
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haha thanks for this! it was very interesting, as I am going to study abroad in Italy next year. I will be sure to remember all these laws!! :P

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nerdy March 12, 2011 at 5:22 pm
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you say you will be studying abroad. Are you going to the UWC of the Adriatic by any chance?

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Xma January 29, 2012 at 5:32 pm
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I always wonder how people can fall for such an immense pile of lies.

Can someone really believe that in Rome one cannot keep a goldfish in a bowl? Of course that is not true!

You think it is legal to pinch a woman’s behind? Try and let’s see what happens…
The foundation of this lie comes from a guy who famously pinched a woman’s behind, was found guilty of sexual harassment and sentenced to nine months of imprisonment (the punishment for sexual harassment goes from 3 months to 6 years, although until 2009 (I think) there was no difference between sexual harassment and sexual abuse). He appealed to the Corte d’Appello which turned the sentence, found him not guilty of sexual harassment but just of what in Italian is called “ingiuria” (which I think in English is a mixture of abuse and insult). So he was released from jail and simply fined (it was 2007).
He was fined… If one does the same and hopes for the same verdict, given though that there is now a precedent, it’s at his own risk and danger.

And should I debate the truthfulness of the “In Milan you must smile, or you better run from the cops” law?

Scots, you can wear skirts if you like. In fact, I seem to remember that at the ComiCon in Lucca of a few years back it was a pretty popular piece of clothing. I still wonder what character those man were dressed like. Anyway, noone arrested them, even though they did not look their best.

Some of those absurdities are sadly true (and obviously absurd too). La Lega – as a party – has well proven that its isolationist wishes toward the rest of Italy and the rest of the world can be turned into laws.

To recap, I guarantee 2, 7, 8 to be – at the moment – true.
I am not sure about 4, 10, 11.
I am widely skeptic about 9 (and there is in fact a law that forces you to pick up after your dog – to the point that if you’re walking your dog and you don’t have a bag to pick it up, you can be fined even before you’re caught “leaving it there”) and 14.
Regarding the first rule, there was another famous case who was – of course – found guilty after grabbing his crotch in public (it’s not like it wasn’t legal before, it obviously was illegal and still is, being part of art.527 of the Codice Penale, atti osceni in luogo pubblico, obscene acts in a public place.). It is anyway true that it’s considered a gesture that wards off bad luck to grab, or scratch to be precise, your own crotch, but noone does it in public. Or if you do… God, are you moron? It seems to me that article confuses applying the law (which is generic and not specific by its own nature) which making new and bizzarre rules.
I know that 3,5,6,12,13 and 15 are false. Not a bad ratio.

I suggest people to at least ask which laws are stating the things the article says are legal/illegal. At least you can verify. In what legal book are they written? It’s a very unreliable referent the one that doesn’t quote his sources.

Once again, I am very sure of my words, but if provided with specifications that irrefutabily prove that I am the one who’s not well informed, then I will revise my statements for the part that is under discussion.

Up until then, I don’t see much difference between spreading incorrect informations that support derogatory stereotypes (even with good intentions, why not?) and offensive claims dictated by scorn for a population (I am not saying this is the case, I am saying the outcome is equivalent).

And uhm, I wrote a lot… sorry…

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Mr Orimoloye Saibu Victor February 1, 2012 at 11:24 pm
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Italy Law is the best I love the law and I want to vicit Rome to interrogate the government know more about the law. If you need my invitation for only three days send my email to Italian Embassy and invitation letter and also send letter to my email.

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