Earlier this month word broke about the new sitting ban on the Spanish Steps. In case you hadn’t heard, prohibited to sit on the Spanish Steps. Now you’re caught up.
It didn’t take long for the media to share photos of fluorescent-vested cops asking sweaty tourists to keep moving along. It’s the latest in a stream of “monument-protecting” measures taken by the young Mayoress of Rome, Virginia Raggi.
Keep in mind what these measures are protecting the monument from: fast food from nearby restaurants, littering (could we extend the same regulation and surveillance to the rest of Rome?), and the damage caused by suitcases with plastic wheels being dragged across the stone surfaces (although I feel more sorry for any poor soul who decided to haul his luggage up 138 steps in the first place). That said, I fully support a regulation that fines anyone being intentionally disrespectful in public, littering or causing harm to a protected work of artistic heritage.
And for the record, eating on the steps was almost immediately banned following the €1.5m renovation of the Spanish Steps paid for by fashion house Bulgari in 2017.
The move has been met with mixed reactions. Embarrassed tourists and locals alike find the ban harsh for such a public space that’s so conducive to sitting (each tread is approximately 50cm wide).
Alternatively, some locals and even the police themselves feel the ban couldn’t have come soon enough. Many Romans blame the millions of tourists who ascend on the Eternal City each year for the deterioration of the city…
Personally, I’m not so interested in another rousing round of the blame game and discussing yet another faulty, unsustainable execution. But this most recent incident got me thinking.
When I was in college, I had the opportunity to visit Atlanta, GA for a week chock full of meetings and presentations by local hoteliers, restaurateurs, and hospitality professionals. Among them was a meeting with the Atlanta Sports Council, essentially a team of sports marketers tasked with attracting large sporting events (like the Super Bowl) to choose Atlanta as the host city.
Hearing these professionals treat the city of Atlanta – her hotels, restaurants, sporting arenas, parking lots, parks, etc. – as itself a venue, even calling visitors to the city guests, left a profound impression: hospitality is scalable. Whether you’re managing a 3 room bed and breakfast, a 150-room hotel, or the tourism of an entire city or even country, the basics of hospitality are still valid.
In its simplest form, hospitality is about making all people feel welcome and heard. Hospitality means taking care of needs and addressing desires. Hospitality isn’t one sided; it requires a give-and-take. Staff, residents, and guests are equally responsible for their experience: being open, honest, and respectful.
So it begs the questions: Is it the warm Roman hospitality that’s led to kicking tired tourists off the steps?
What are the long-term consequences if this becomes precedent for further “monument protecting” measures?
Is there a better way for Rome to protect its world-class monuments and artistic heritage without implementing fascist-era measures?
What do you think? Drop your thoughts in the comments below.