Warning: Sitting Down on Rome’s Spanish Steps Could Now Cost You $450

Vladislav Zolotov/iStock via Getty Images
Vladislav Zolotov/iStock via Getty Images

“I was just sitting here doing nothing” won’t get you out of trouble if a police officer blows their whistle at you on Rome’s Spanish Steps. In fact, just sitting there is the problem. Mayor Virginia Raggi and the rest of the Roman government recently passed a number of regulations to help preserve the city’s historical landmarks, which includes banning visitors from plopping down on the scenic stone steps.

The 18th-century Spanish Steps connect the Santissima Trinità dei Monti Church at the top with the Piazza di Spagna square below. The steps recently received a $1.7-million restoration funded largely by luxury brand Bulgari, which has operated a shop in the square since 1884. As Forbes explains, officers can now fine you up to $450 for failing to move along or soiling the steps in any way.

Some people think the sitting ban is extreme—Roman newspaper Il Messaggero opined that photos of the empty stairs conveyed “desolation” rather than strength, as reported by The New York Times—but most officials support the new rule. It’s not really sitting that proves most problematic, but rather the propensity for tourists to use the stairs as a place to take a snack or drink break. As David Sermoneta, the president of the Piazza di Spagna Trinità dei Monti Association, told The New York Times, “You couldn’t walk around the Metropolitan Museum snacking on food and slurping a Coke. We expect the same for the center of Rome.”

“Those restorations cost,” one police officer told The New York Times while gesturing to an apparent ice cream cone stain on the stairs. “Why shouldn’t we watch over the city’s monuments?” It’s safe to say that if Roman Holiday (1953) had been filmed this year, Audrey Hepburn wouldn’t have enjoyed her own ice cream cone while perched on the stairs.

Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck on the Spanish Steps in Roman Holiday
Paramount Pictures

It’s not the only iconic film scene that the new laws would’ve foiled—Anita Ekberg’s sensual soak in the Trevi Fountain during La Dolce Vita (1960) would run her a $500 bill today. The city has also tightened restrictions on prostitution, mistreatment of animals, the sale of alcohol, and graffiti. The New York Times reports that according to Rome’s website, the rules aim to forbid behavior that is “not compatible with the historic and artistic decorum” of Rome in order to “guarantee decorum, security, and legality.”

But don’t let the stricter policies put a damper on your enthusiasm to experience all that Rome has to offer. Luckily, gelato is easy enough to eat on the go.

[h/t Forbes]

Snuggle a Raccoon While You Sip Your Coffee at Ukraine’s Raccoon Cafe

bozhdb/iStock via Getty Images
bozhdb/iStock via Getty Images

Raccoons are often misunderstood creatures. While many people see them only as furry little pests who root through your trash or hole up in your attic (which they sometimes do), others think they make great pets. Mark Kolesnykov, founder of the recently opened Raccoon Cafe in Kharkiv, Ukraine, falls squarely into the latter group.

The Raccoon Cafe gives customers the unique opportunity to interact with and give belly rubs to Liza and Bart, a lovable pair of raccoons Kolesnykov adopted from a local eco-farm when they were just babies (a.k.a. kits).

The animals have a special enclosure in the cafe, where guests can watch them play and, if they're lucky, give them a pet. The exterior of the cafe pays tribute to the masked mammals with a mural of Guardians of the Galaxy’s Rocket Raccoon and various raccoons dressed up as superheroes, including Spider-Man (Raccoon-man?) and Wonder Woman.

Though it only just opened, the Raccoon Cafe is already proving to be a huge hit; CNN reports that the space is attracting approximately 200 visitors per day, which means that some customers must wait up to 30 minutes for their chance to interact with and feed the pair (neither of which are things you should ever do with a raccoon in the wild).

Patrons who'd rather not get too close can also just watch the pair as they climb around their enclosure, play with their toys, and interact with guests—and each other—in a special indoor room that’s equipped with soundproof glass and special lighting.

Kolesnykov told UATV that part of the cafe's allure is that while people regularly see photos and videos of raccoons doing adorable things, few people have ever witnessed their behavior up close. In person, according to Kolesnykov, the animals are “livelier” and even more “mischievous” than what people have seen on YouTube.

The cafe, however, is not without its critics. Animal psychologist Andriy Hapchenko, head researcher at Feldman Ecopark in Kharkiv, expressed concerns to UATV about businesses like the Raccoon Cafe, saying that wild animals that are used for business purposes can often be harmed by the amount of human attention (and food) they're given. But Kolesnykov assures potential customers that he consulted with veterinarians before opening the space to make sure that Liza and Bart would be both safe and happy.

[h/t CNN]

This London Pub Might Be the Most Ethical Bar in the World

Ridofranz/Getty Images
Ridofranz/Getty Images

Pub owner Randy Rampersad is doing his part for sustainability. In June, he opened the Green Vic—a play on the fictional Queen Vic pub in the soap opera EastEnders—in the East London neighborhood of Shoreditch. The Telegraph reports it’s aiming to be the world’s most ethical pub: Rampersad eschews plastic and paper straws and opts for gluten-free wheat “straws.” He sources the bar's 100 percent recycled toilet paper from green-minded company Who Gives a Crap, and the communal wooden tables are upcycled.

“I wanted to make the world a better place and run my own business, but I was waiting for that eureka moment,” Rampersad told The Telegraph. He discovered no one had done anything like this before.

There’s no meat on the menu—the food is totally vegan, healthy-ish pub grub. You can add CBD oil to the “chkn" bites appetizer, and the burgers are made from ingredients like soy, seaweed, and sweet potato. The beers are produced by ethical brewers, too: Toast Ale uses unsold loaves and crusts of bread; Good Things Brewing crafts its beer from 100 percent renewable energy; South Africa’s Afro Vegan Cider donates money to an organization that funds equal pay for female farmers; and Brewgooder donates to water projects.

In fact, everything the Green Vic does has charity in mind. “We don't care about the money, I’m planet first and profit after,” Rampersad told The Telegraph. Up to 80 percent of its profits will go to charitable causes, including local food banks. As for the staff, one in four are from marginalized groups. The Green Vic plans to operate as a three-month pop-up pub while scouting for longer term investment.