By Livia Borghese
When in Rome, don’t drive your fancy sports car down historic stairways.
That advice apparently went unheeded by a man who this week drove his rented Maserati down the city’s Spanish Steps and now faces charges for allegedly causing damage to the landmark, according to police in the Italian capital.
The unnamed 37-year-old Saudi national accused of being behind the wheel was apprehended at Milan’s Malpensa airport after police identified him through the car rental company from images of the vehicle caught by surveillance cameras.
He’s been charged with aggravated damage to cultural heritage and monuments.
Video footage of the incident released by police shows the Maserati being driven into the pedestrian zone above the steps overnight between Tuesday and Wednesday. The car descends the first flight of steps before halting. Someone is then seen emerging from the vehicle and inspecting its plight.
The car caused fractures to the 16th and 29th steps of the right-hand flight rising up from Spanish Square, Rome’s heritage protection body said in a statement.
Some marble fragments were temporarily reattached “in order to allow the immediate reopening for pedestrian transit,” it said.
‘Chippings, scratches and abrasions’
More work will be necessary “to restore the damaged steps by replacing the fractured portions, with travertine blocks that, in terms of color and material characteristics, are compatible” with the damaged steps.
Cultural heritage technicians are evaluating the economic damage of the accident, considering that they also found “widespread chippings, scratches, abrasions, and deposits on both ramps of the second level, attributable to the same event,” the statement said.
The Spanish Steps are among Rome’s most celebrated monuments. They owe their name to the Spanish Embassy at the Holy See that is hosted in a palazzo in the square below.
In 2015, the steps underwent a two-year restoration that costing €1.5 million ($1.6 million), sponsored by jewelry house Bulgari, which has its flagship store in the nearby Via dei Condotti.
The Spanish Steps have served as the backdrop for scenes in countless films, most notably “Roman Holiday,” the 1953 movie starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck.
Top image credit: Polizia Roma Capitale
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