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Italy Hunts Tourists Who Skinny-Dipped at Tomb of Unknown Soldier

The Italian authorities have repeatedly warned visitors: Fountains aren’t for wading.

There’s a law on the books, promising fines for offenders. But amid one of the hottest summers in Europe, the rules didn’t stop two men from pulling a tourist stunt in a famous fountain in Rome this week, and causing a public outcry.

The two men decided to hop into the fountain to pose for photos in their underwear beneath the Altar of the Motherland, which also holds the tomb of the unknown soldier. There, at a monument celebrating the unification and liberation of Italy, and commemorating its more than 500,000 dead in World War I, one decided to drop his underwear.

The cellphone footage, shared widely on social media, enraged Italian officials, who called it an insult.

Rome’s police — who posted pictures of the episode on Monday, describing it as “an outrage to the unknown soldier” — are hunting for the culprits, described as “English speakers.”

A furious Matteo Salvini, the country’s hard-line interior minister, called the men “idiots.”

“Italy isn’t their bathroom,” he declared.

Rome’s fountains, with their refreshingly cool, flowing water, are a powerful lure in the middle of the city’s popular tourist spots, especially in this summer’s heat, when European countries have broken records for scorching temperatures. Wading in the fountains has been against the law since 1999, but many tourists risk the fines.

[Our correspondent in Rome reported on the city’s efforts to spare its fountains.]

Skinny-dipping in Italy’s fountains is a time-honored tourist prank. In April, a man was fined 500 euros, or $ 530, after doing it in the Trevi Fountain. That same month, a Spanish tourist waded into the same fountain in a long tunic. Two Danes received €900 fines for using the Fountain of Two Seas at Rome’s Piazza Venezia as a foot bath.

In May, a Danish woman took an evening swim in a fountain in her nightgown. In June, a Malaysian man bathed nude in Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s baroque Four Rivers Fountain in Piazza Navona. A Czech artist washing a dirty rag in the Piazza del Popolo’s Fountain of the Lions.

The rite may have been planted in the public consciousness because of a scene in the Fellini movie “La Dolce Vita,” in which Anita Ekberg takes a black-and-white dip in the Trevi. But those who toss anything other than coins for luck are likely to be punished with hefty fines.

Bathing is hardly the only cause for trouble at Italy’s fountains. A brawl broke out in August between two women jostling to line up the perfect selfie. And last summer someone scrawled an ugly carving in the marble of the Trevi Fountain.

The two men this week decided to bare themselves at the striking white marble monument in Rome, whose tiered form has resulted in nicknames including “The Typewriter” and “La Zuppa Inglese,” after a layered, custardy dessert.

The police are appealing for witnesses to identify the bathers, and have asked consulates in the city to do the same.

Source: NYT > World

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