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The Weirdest Laws in Italy

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