Brewing Coffee on the Rialto Bridge (and Other Unexpected Things That Are Illegal in Venice)

Two German tourists were fined and kicked out of the city for their morning coffee habit last week, but that’s not the only thing that’s against the law in Venice.

Brewing Coffee on the Rialto Bridge (and Other Unexpected Things That Are Illegal in Venice)

Eating, drinking, and sitting on the steps of the Rialto Bridge are all against the law.

Photo by Shutterstock

Police in Venice recently fined a pair of backpackers from Berlin €950 (US$1,059) and asked them to leave the city. Their offense? They were caught brewing coffee on a portable stove on the steps of the city’s historic Rialto Bridge on Friday, July 19. While that may seem innocent behavior to some, it’s actually in violation of the city’s ban on public picnics, which prohibits people from eating or drinking while sitting on the ground at specific sites, including St. Mark’s Square and the Rialto Bridge.

But that’s not the only bad behavior you can be charged with there. In addition to commonplace offenses like littering, buying goods from illegal street vendors, and defacing public or private property with graffiti, Venice has also made a few more unexpected things against the law as part of an ongoing campaign to curb the effects of overtourism and poorly behaved travelers. Here are six other things that can get you in trouble in Venice.

1. Sitting down in St. Mark’s Square

Turns out just sitting in undesignated areas in St. Mark’s Square is against the rules. According to the Città di Venezia’s website, it’s forbidden to sit in the following places around St. Mark’s Square except at one of the cafés or restaurants located there: Beneath the arcades of the Ducal Palace, at the Piazzetta dei Leoncini on the square’s north side, on the steps and beneath the arcades of the Procuratie Nuove, in the Napoleonic Wing, outside the Sansovino Library, as well as at square’s entranceway, known as the Piazzetta San Marco.

In fall 2018, Venice’s mayor, Luigi Brugnaro, proposed an extension of this sitting ban beyond St. Mark’s Square and to raise the fine from €200 to €500 (US$223 to $557). While it was up for discussion with the city council, it appears that it has yet to be passed.

2. Feeding the pigeons in St. Mark’s Square

In 2008, tossing bread crumbs to the pigeons that gather in the city’s most iconic square became illegal. Because the excrement the birds leave behind is acidic, it can damage the mosaics on the historic buildings that surround the piazza. The bird-feeding ban also extends to all public areas of the city, including its squares and canals. If you’re caught feeding pigeons—or seagulls that also frequent the area—you can expect a fine between €50 and €200 (US$56 to $223).

3. Jumping into or swimming in the canals

Even though the city is surrounded by water, you’ll be fined €450 (US$502) if you “swim, dive, or immerse oneself in streams, canals, whether public or private, and in St. Mark’s Basin, or in any water spot near any inhabited municipal area,” according to the city’s website.

Don't even think about putting a love lock on a bridge in Venice.

Don’t even think about putting a love lock on a bridge in Venice.

Photo by Shutterstock

4. Putting padlocks on bridges or other monuments

A proliferation of love locks appeared on the Rialto Bridge, the Ponte dell’Accademia, and the Ponte degli Scalzi in the early 2000s. It is now officially illegal to attach padlocks to Venetian bridges—as well as any other monument. When the ban was first introduced in 2016, it carried a shocking €3,000 (US$3,344) fine. The price has been relaxed, but attaching one today will still get you slapped with a €100 (US$111) fine.

5. Walking around partially unclothed or wearing a bathing suit in public

No matter how hot it gets in the summer, both men and women who walk around without shirts or who wear swimsuits in public in Venice can be fined €200 (US$223).

6. Riding or pushing a bicycle in the city

Only city residents and children up to eight years of age are allowed to use bicycles in the city. Even if you’re only pushing one by hand, you could be fined €100 (US$111).

In addition to the police, a team of “decorum angels” also makes the rounds at Venice’s busiest sites to make sure that tourists don’t break these rules. While they can’t fine you or ban you from the city as the police can, they can contact the police if you don’t comply.

Similar Rules Elsewhere in Italy

Venice isn’t the only city that has strict rules against eating in public. Last year, Florence issued a new law that made it illegal to eat on sidewalks or in shop doorways in the historic city center during peak lunch and dinner hours. Visitors who disobey these rules can be fined as much as €500 (US$557).

More recently, in June, Rome’s mayor, Virginia Raggi, officially made it illegal to eat and drink on the city’s famous monuments. It’s also against the law to climb on monuments, walk around partially unclothed, or wade in the city’s fountains.

Associated Press contributed reporting to this article.

>> Next: 7 Surprisingly Illegal Things to Avoid in Europe

Lyndsey Matthews is the senior commerce editor at AFAR who covers travel gear, packing advice, and points and loyalty.
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