Maiken Offerdal of Norway and her teenage sons were just sitting down on Rome’s famed Spanish Steps on Wednesday when they heard two shrieks of a whistle.
A police officer walked over and tut-tutted: No sitting, he said sternly.
Never mind the long tradition of lounging on the fabled spot — a scene perhaps best evoked by Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck in the 1953 film “Roman Holiday” — sitting on the Spanish Steps is now subject to a fine of 400 euros, or about $450, under new municipal rules that ban a variety of activities in the city’s historic center.
The regulations are intended to “guarantee decorum, security and legality” by prohibiting actions that are “not compatible with the historic and artistic decorum” of Rome’s center, according to the city’s website.
So Anita Ekberg’s famed dip in the Trevi Fountain in Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita”? That would cost her as much as €450, or about $500, today.
Those faux Roman centurions who pose for pictures — for a fee, of course — in front of the Colosseum? Forget about it. Rickshaw drivers? They’ll need to find new routes.
Penalties for graffiti were toughened, as were those for the off-hour sale of alcohol. The new regulations also tighten enforcement of prostitution and the mistreatment of animals, among other things.
The rules, passed by Rome’s government, which is controlled by the Five Star Movement and led by Mayor Virginia Raggi, went into effect last month. Officers have been lenient so far: No fines have been issued for improper sitting, a spokeswoman for Rome’s municipal police said.
Warnings, though, are becoming plentiful.
Dozens of startled people, most of them tourists, were reprimanded on a broiling Wednesday afternoon by a small force of municipal police officers — this reporter counted at least eight — who admonished step-sitters by blowing twice on their whistles and gesturing stiffly to stand up.
The transgressors sheepishly complied.
One so chastised was Valerie Dimitrieva, a visitor from Kazakhstan, who said she had sat on the Spanish Steps during past visits to Rome without incident.
“Being whistled at — it was a bit embarrassing,” she said.
A tired-looking father with a stroller in his arms and a toddler on his shoulders, was coming down the steps when he was stopped by a cry of “Hey Mister.” The stroller, an officer said, cannot touch the steps. The father grudgingly complied.
The officer who chastised him was unapologetic.
“You see one stroller — we see millions of them. This is a historic monument that has to be preserved,” he said, declining to give his name because he was not authorized to speak to reporters. He asked to be identified as “a municipal police officer who loves Rome.”
The Spanish Steps — 174 of them — were built in the 18th century. With the Trinità dei Monti Church presiding majestically at the top, they are one of Rome’s most popular tourist attractions. On Wednesday afternoon, a few hundred tourists snapped photos of their families and friends with the steps as a backdrop.
The steps are in excellent shape. Three years ago, Bulgari, the luxury brand, paid for a €1.5 million, ten-month spruce-up.
But the talkative officer (others were, let’s say, more brusque) pointed to a brown blotch on the stairs, a memento of a spilled chocolate ice cream cone.
“Those restorations cost. Why shouldn’t we watch over the city’s monuments?” he asked.
Rome has tried for years to get ill-mannered tourists to behave. In 2012, Mayor Gianni Alemanno’s government passed regulations to stop tourists from snacking on monuments. But sitting was mostly O.K.
Some critics say that Mayor Raggi has gone too far.
The newspaper Il Messaggero said Wednesday that photographs of empty stairs “were not an image of strength, but of desolation.” The newspaper accused the mayor of trying to apply “Swiss rigor” to what was a quintessentially Roman spot for relaxation.
But the shopkeepers in Piazza di Spagna, at the base of the steps, applauded the new rules.
Like many Italian cities, Rome is an open-air museum that asks little of its visitors except civility, said David Sermoneta, the president of the Piazza di Spagna Association.
“You couldn’t walk around the Metropolitan Museum snacking on food and slurping a Coke,” he said. “We expect the same for the center of Rome.”
Still, with the steps off limits, shopkeepers have had to hire private guards to keep tourists from sitting on the shops’ stoops to eat, Mr. Sermoneta said. “Pasta, ice cream, panini — it was becoming unsustainable,” he said.
For Ms. Offerdal and her family, it was all a bit puzzling. She wondered aloud whether it would be cheaper and easier to just clean the steps regularly rather than pay officers to enforce the rules.
Her husband, Noah, was more understanding if a bit wistful.
“It must have been difficult to walk here, if the steps were full of people,” Mr. Offerdal said. “Still, I remember that I came here as a child and sat on the steps and ate ice cream. It was a good memory.”