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No more paninis on the piazza? Rome bars tourists from eating at historical sites

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(Read caption) A file photo shows car traffic speeding past Rome's world famous Colosseum.

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It is one of the simplest, most affordable pleasures of any visit to Rome: tucking into a piece of pizza, or a panino stuffed with prosciutto and mozzarella, while marveling at the city’s ancient monuments. But not anymore.

As of this week, anyone caught snacking around the Eternal City’s centuries-old monuments and archeological sites could find themselves landed with a fine of up to 500 euros ($650).

In an attempt to bring a greater level of decorum to a city not known for order, Rome city council has passed a decree banning tourists from snacking in the historic center, which recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage site.

That includes Piazza Navona, with its exquisite marble fountains, and the Pantheon, a vast Roman temple converted into a church. Other areas subject to the crackdown include Via dei Fori Imperiali, the broad avenue which links Piazza Venezia, Rome’s main square, with the Colosseum, the ancient arena where gladiators and slaves once fought.

Thinking of emulating Audrey Hepburn in the 1953 romantic comedy Roman Holiday by eating a gelato on the Spanish Steps? Think again. It could prove to be a very expensive ice cream.

"It is forbidden to encamp or erect makeshift shelters and stop to eat or drink in zones which have a particular historic or architectural value," reads the ordinance adopted by Rome city council this week.

The law is intended to “guarantee the protection of areas of merit in the historic center,” it added.

In what one Italian newspaper, La Repubblica, called the start of a “war on the panino," fines will range from 25 euros ($32) up to 500 euros ($650).

In many ways the new clamp-down reflects a schism in attitudes towards public eating between Italians and tourists.

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