10 Tourist Rules You Never Realized You Have to Follow

When your entire country can be considered a work of art or priceless history, officials sometimes have to go to extremes to protect their national treasures, leading to some pretty surprising rules that you need to follow when you travel.

Don’t sit on the steps in Rome

New tourist laws in Rome make it illegal to sit on the famed Spanish Steps in Rome. The explanation: The newly renovated stairs are a centuries-old historic monument, not actually seating. The same goes for other historic stairways in the city; you can walk up and down, but don’t get comfortable by grabbing a seat or you can be issued a fine. It’s also against the law to bump your wheeled luggage and baby strollers down ancient stairs since it can destroy the stone. Even though these rules can sound persnickety, it’s become a necessity to protect the ancient highlights of the city since Italy is the country everyone wants to travel to this year.

Don’t wear heels in Athens

Rome isn’t the only iconic city worried about preserving vintage stone; in Greece, it’s illegal to wear high heels when you’re touring storied monuments like the Parthenon and the Acropolis in Athens, or any other ancient marble and stone historic site. (They’re notoriously slippery, so we wouldn’t recommend it anyway.)

Don’t jump in the Canal in Venice

It’s never OK to swim, or even dunk your toes, in the famous canals and lagoons in Venice; it’s against the law. Honestly, you shouldn’t even want to, it’s not all that clean. Instead, head to lovely Lido Island for beautiful sandy beaches and clean swimming waters.

Fountains are not for swimming

Forget what you’ve seen in movies, you’ll be in hot water if you try and splash around in Rome’s Trevi Fountain to cool off, or in any other fountain in Italy. Instead, head to the beautiful beaches of Cinque Terre or the Amalfi Coast to cool off during the summer. Try using these popular phrases while you’re visiting Italy to sound like a local.

Don’t swim in the Blue Grotto

Blue GrottoFotosol/imageBROKER/Shutterstock

Speaking of water in Italy, if you see a sign that prohibits swimming, take it seriously. Heidi Klum and her newly betrothed Tom Kaulitz were recently fined more than $6,000 for leaping into the fabled waters of the Blue Grotto in Capri after they tied the knot on a nearby yacht.

Don’t snack on the go

Here’s an Italian law that may catch you by surprise: It’s illegal to eat messy food in historic locations in Rome, Florence, and Venice. That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your gelato in a park or while you stroll down a quiet street, but you could be fined (or even removed from the city center) if you try to eat a pizza in a historic piazza or drip your ice cream onto the stones of the Coliseum. And in Greece, you can’t bring drinks, food, or gum into any historic sites, either. (And please don’t cook your food in a historic site: two German tourists were actually kicked out of Venice for brewing coffee on the famed Rialto Bridge earlier this summer!)

Keep your shirt on

Taking a dip in the sea in Barcelona? Don’t plan on walking around in your bathing suit once you leave the beach; wearing just a bikini or swim trunks on the street is a fineable offense here and also on the popular Spanish island of Mallorca. And men, keep your shirt on when you’re in Rome, too; it’s against the law to walk around bare-chested. Curious about more unusual international rules? Check out these 25 funny international laws.

Don’t feed the pigeons

Want to toss a few breadcrumbs to the infamous flying residents of San Marco Square in Venice? Not so fast! It’s actually against the law to feed the pesky pigeons. Same goes for the birds in Vienna, Austria, where feeding the pigeons has been a fineable offense since 2014.

Keep the noise down

If you’re visiting Germany, it’s illegal to make too much noise on a Sunday or holidays. And keep things down when you’re visiting Venice, too; a new law says that making too much noise at night or during siesta time (1 p.m. to 3 p.m.), is also forbidden.

Don’t put your mouth on the tap in Rome

According to Lonely Planet, tourists will need to be especially considerate about how they drink water from Rome’s historic public drinking fountains, known as nasoni. It’s unacceptable to let your mouth touch the metal spout; instead, cup your hands under the spout to get a drink (or bring a reusable water bottle, and skip the issue altogether). On the other hand, these 10 rude American manners are actually considered polite in other countries.

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Melissa Klurman
Melissa Klurman is a freelance travel writer and editor with more than 27 years experience who reports on travel trends around the planet for Reader's Digest. Winner of a Lowell Thomas Gold Award for excellence in travel writing, she started her career as an editor at both Frommer’s and Fodor’s travel guides, then went on to write about travel for many publications including Family Traveller, Parents, and Working Mother magazines. More recently she has been a contributing editor at Saveur, Islands, and Caribbean Travel and Life and a senior contributor at Travelocity. A New Jersey native, ice cream addict, and a lifelong Bruce Springsteen fan, Klurman lives in Montclair, New Jersey, with her husband, son, and rescue dog.