promoting cultural heritage and conservation

No time for snack time: Rome’s anti-eating ordinance

It’s been over a month since Rome’s anti-bivacco law, a citywide ordinance forbidding eating and drinking in areas of “particular historic, artistic, architectonic and cultural value” in Rome’s center was put into effect. The idea may have been conceived as lending a helpful hand to help the areas around the Colosseum, Pantheon, Spanish Steps, et al, in maintaining a modicum of cleanliness and lessening the accumulating debris that is inadvertently (or deliberately) dropped. However, instead raising hands to the nearest trashcan, it has raised polemic.

People do not see the logic in fines for eating while standing around, especially when the ground beneath their feet is carpeted in cigarette remnants.  They definitely don’t appreciate a monument-centric ordinance when the monuments themselves are in debatable states of preservation.  If anything, the ordinance seems a bit Baby-Bathwater syndrome- while trying to encourage cultural heritage, it is effectively discouraging respect, growth and (potentially) tourism.

Let’s get historic. Rome has a history of trash. Littering laws (for trash, bodies, dung, whatever) have literally been set in stone since Ancient Rome. Check out the 1st century BCE sepulcher pillar at Centrale Montemartini.  More likely, you’ve seen the 18th century mondezzari plaques but as quaint detail to Rome’s picturesque sidestreets. For centuries, Rome has been asking its visitors and residents alike to be kind to their city. Adding ordinances to existing laws seems slightly excessive when perhaps we need to focus on changing attitudes about cultural heritage, civic pride and just plain littering.

Will the anti-bivacco ordinance help the city’s plea to take of her and her patrimony? We’ll let you know if there is a significant change on January 1, 2013, when the ordinance expires.

For more information, please check out Elisabetta Povoledo’s Buon Appetito but not next to monuments (New York Times), Anti Bivaco è ordinanza per tutelare monumenti (Il Livello), and food blogger Katie Parla’s thoughts on the ordinance.

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