By now, you’ve probably heard about the case of the American girl and her Italian boyfriend accused of murdering British student Meredith Kercher. As it stands now, American Amanda Knox is set to serve 30 years in an Italian prison. Is she guilty? I really don’t know, as I haven’t followed the details of the case very closely. Though, after (finally!) finishing Douglas Preston’s The Monster of Florence, I am now highly skeptical of the Italian judicial system. I had doubts before, sure. But Preston really painted such a picture of grand ineptitude that I started thinking how horrible it would be to be on the wrong side of the law in Italy.
Suspected murderers and (according to Preston) snooping journalists (who make public prosecutors look like idiots) certainly stand to serve some time in jail or at least endure some intense police inquiries. But what are some of the other violations that could get you into hot water? I was curious, so I found a few:
1) A dip in the fountain. It’s actually illegal in Rome (and probably other cities) to take a dip, “skinny” or otherwise, in any of the city’s many fountains. Doing so will get you a €100-500 fine in Rome; not sure what other cities may charge.
2) Failing to validate your bus or train ticket. You can see a fine of at least €50 if you don’t validate your bus or train ticket prior to or upon getting on one of those vehicles. The Italians don’t make it easy to understand this, as there’s never anyone posted next to the “convalidare” boxes in train stations and on buses. It almost seems like an honor system and you can probably buck the system a few times before you actually see any sort of law enforcement authority. But, you certainly don’t want to end up like this poor traveler.
3) Don’t insult the Pope or Italian president. Italians certainly seem like they practice freedom of speech. But Italian comedienne Sabina Guzzanti recently learned that making fun of the pontiff in public could possibly result in up to five years in jail. Have you heard the one about Pope Benedict and Berlusconi in a bar? Me neither!
Those are just a few of what I’m sure are dozens of local and state laws that could get you in trouble in Italy. Of course, if you do find yourself in trouble (or a victim of it), you should contact your country’s embassy or consulate for assistance. Below is some embassy contact info.
Via Antonio Bosio, 5
06 852 721/fax 06 8527 2300
Via XX Settembre80
06 4220 0001/fax 06 422 023 34
Via Zara, 30
06 445 981/fax 06 445 989 12
Piazza di Campitelli, 3
06 697 9121/fax 06 679 2354
New Zealand Embassy
Via Zara, 28
06 441 7171/fax 06 440 2984
United States Embassy
Via V. Veneto, 119/A
06 467 41/fax 06 467 422 17
Photo by ItalyfromtheInside.com