Tourists cool off in the 17th-century Bernini fountain, also known as Barcaccia, in front of the historical Spanish Steps in Rome. south.

Andrew Medichini, Associated Press - Ap

From the Travel Desk: Skip gelato on the Spanish Steps

  • Article by: KERRI WESTENBERG
  • Star Tribune
  • December 6, 2013 - 2:01 PM

Sometimes you suggest that people eat gelato and wind up eating crow. Last week’s Travel story about hidden gems in Rome included an innocuous-seeming sentence suggesting that tourists enjoy gelato on the Spanish Steps. Woe to those who do. Follow in Audrey Hepburn’s footsteps, and you can be slapped with a fine, an alert online reader currently in Rome told us. Late last year, the city passed an ordinance that outlaws eating and drinking at cultural monuments in its historic district. Times have changed since the filming of “Roman Holiday,” circa 1953, in which Hepburn’s runaway princess gets her sugar high near the fountain there. (Find our story, updated to eliminate the flaw, at

I wrote the offending sentence during the editing process, and I feel bad for leading readers possibly into a world of trouble (instead of just into the world). To make amends, I went on a hunt at various websites, including those of foreign embassies and the State Department (at, for other laws that might surprise travelers.

Beware Italy. Venice has a longstanding law, similar to Rome’s recent dictum, forbidding the eating of bag lunches on the steps around St. Mark’s Square. Also, buying a “Gucci” or “Prada” bag on the cheap anywhere in the country could cost you far more than the authentic thing. People caught purchasing counterfeit products can face steep charges.

In Singapore, you can be arrested for jaywalking, littering or spitting.

Check your gas gauge before getting on Germany’s autobahn. It is an offense to stop on the speedway unless you’ve had an accident — and running out of gas does not qualify, even if it is as innocent as licking ice cream.


Send your questions or tips to travel editor Kerri Westenberg at, and follow her on twitter @kerriwestenberg.

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