One of Rome’s most beloved landmarks, the Spanish Steps, has had a rough couple of weeks.
Last month, a 37-year-old man took a chunk out of the UNESCO World Heritage Site when he drove his rented Maserati down it. He was reportedly with a Romanian woman he met at a night club when he made the wrong turn onto the stairs in the wee hours of the morning. He was initially unable to reverse back up the stairs, but was able, with the help of passersby, to get the car back on the road before a tow truck arrived.
Now, this week, an American husband and wife in their late 20s attempted to wheel a pair of motorized scooters down the historic staircase at 3:45 a.m. The woman eventually gave up and let her scooter tumble to the street.
Police banned the couple from returning to the steps and fined them $400 for causing $25,000 in damage, according to the Daily Mail.
Authorities were ultimately able to track down the Maserati driver from security footage at the scene and rental car records. Police arrested him at Milan’s Malpensa airport and charged him with aggravated damage to cultural heritage and monuments.
The city plans “to restore the damaged steps by replacing the fractured portions with travertine blocks that, in terms of color and material characteristics, are compatible,” Rome’s heritage protection body said in a statement, according to CNN.
In 2019, Rome banned tourists from sitting on the Spanish Steps, which had recently undergone a $1.6 million renovation. It was funded by Italian luxury company Bulgari, which proposed the sitting ban. Violating the rule could mean a fine of up to €400 ($430).
Designed by architects Francesco de Sanctis and Alessandro Specchi, the 135 steps were completed in 1725, linking the Piazza di Spagna below and the Piazza Trinità dei Monti above.
Other nearby landmarks that have been damaged in recent years include the more than 400-year-old Pietro Bernini fountain at the foot of the stairs, which was vandalized by drunken soccer fans in 2015.
In 2008, the artist and activist Graziano Cecchini unleashed 500,000 colorful plastic balls—the kind from a funhouse ball pit—at the top of the Spanish Steps in a stunt he said was designed to draw attention to political problems in Italy. (Each ball “represented a lie told by a politician,” Cecchini told Italian reporters.)
The performance piece, which had to be cleaned up by municipal workers, cost the artist $30,000 and ended with his arrest. Cecchini also dyed Rome’s Trevi Fountain red for protests in 2007 and 2017.
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