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From fights over selfies to midnight swims: Rome's Trevi Fountain
Tourists take a selfie photo in front of the 18th Century Baroque Trevi Fountain and the 16th Century Palazzo Poli in downtown Rome on August 26, 2018. Faced with the growing number of visitors, one of the most emblematic monuments in Rome, the Trevi fountain, designed by 17th Century Italian architect Gian Lorenzo Bernini, suffocates under the human tide that submerges it every day. The mayor of Rome has repeatedly expressed the wish to install a controlled access to unclog the site of the restored baroque work as, for security reasons and protection of the artistic heritage, it is forbidden to bathe in the fountains of the whole city. Vincenzo PINTO / AFP.

by Virginie Ziliani

ROME (AFP).- It is one of the must-see sights for visitors to Rome but its iconic Trevi Fountain has been making headlines for the wrong reasons recently -- and people are getting fed up.

Two tourists came to blows earlier this month as they competed for a prime selfie spot and a new round-the-clock deployment of police officers clearly indicates the authorities have had enough of bad behaviour.

"There are too many people," a French tourist says as he struggles to see past the throngs gathered in front of the 18th century UNESCO site on Trevi Square.

"There needs to be more order, otherwise the visit is not pleasant," adds Rafel Llerat, a 44-year-old visitor from Spain.

The on-site police officers, whose job it is to manage the crowds swarming around Bernini's masterpiece, add to the hubbub with their whistle-blowing at the slightest misdemeanour.

"No, it's not possible to go to this area, you risk damaging the marble," one of them says to a tourist trying to eat ice cream at the edge of the fountain.

Roman bathing
Their twitchiness, however, is justified.

Three weeks ago, a brawl erupted between a young Dutch tourist and a 44-year-old Italian-American, both of whom had set their sights on a strategic place to take a selfie at the site.

And in mid-August, a couple of 30-year-old Canadian tourists were fined 450 euros for swimming in the fountain just hours after their first attempt was thwarted by police.

The stunt was perhaps in homage to one of the Trevi Fountain's most iconic moments, when Swedish actress Anita Ekberg went for a dip in Federico Fellini's film "La Dolce Vita".

Rome's city council have since decided to deploy local police officers to monitor the fountain day and night after a dozen similar incidents led to fines.

Faced with the growing number of visitors, the city's mayor has repeatedly expressed the wish to control access to the baroque work to unclog the site.

But that idea is not popular with some tourists, with 39-year-old American Sal Boscarello saying: "If we had to wait in line, we would not have come."

Valentina Baldi, a 48-year-old from Tuscany, says visitors should just have more respect.

"This is one of the most beautiful places in Rome. People should be more educated: they should understand that we are facing a monument."

A 1.5 million euro ($1.7 million) restoration of the landmark, made famous by the 1953 film "Roman Holiday", was financed by upmarket jeweller Bulgari and finished in 2016.

© Agence France-Presse

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