The authorities in Italy are nursing a new headache these days, and it looks like one that’s unlikely to go away any time soon. Incidents of tourists crashing (or nearly crashing) drones into historical landmarks are growing fast, with three such mishaps coming to light in the last month alone.
On April 23, an Argentine tourist lost control of his drone while he was at Palazzo Venezia, the first of Rome’s great Renaissance palaces. The drone crashed into the roof of the 15-century monument and was recovered by the building’s security staff who reported its 39-year-old operator to the police.
Police captain Matteo Alborghetti later told reporters the man was “probably unaware” that drone flights over Rome and the Vatican cannot be conducted without explicit permission from ENAC, Italy’s civil aviation body.
“Fortunately, there were no repercussions, no one was hurt, and the roof of Palazzo Venezia was not damaged,” Alborghetti added, before detailing the drone will remain in police custody and that the tourist risks criminal prosecution.
A similar episode took place on April 18 in Pisa. A Mexican brother and sister duo, aged 18 and 26, were sanctioned by the police for crashing their drone into the Leaning Tower of Pisa. While the crash, thankfully, did not cause any harm to the Tuscan city’s famous landmark, the drone was seized by the police.
A few days after this incident, Italian authorities stopped a 32-year-old Romanian tourist while he was flying his drone over the Piazza Dei Miracoli – again, near the famous leaning tower.
While regulations for flying drones are more restrictive in Italy because of all the historic buildings and monuments, tourists appear to be oblivious to the rules. However, there have also been instances where people have seemingly chosen to ignore the rules and act recklessly.
In July 2021, for example, a 61-year-old man was charged with an “attack against transport security” after he flew his drone above Rome at an altitude of 2,000 meters. The man, who was a member of a Facebook page for drone fanatics, was reported after his device was spotted by a professional pilot. When the police searched the pilot’s house, they found several other videos amounting to hundreds of illegal flying hours.
And then there’s the incident from 2020, where a 40-year-old Polish tourist crashed his drone inside the Colosseum despite having been warned by the ticket control staff that operating the craft inside the ancient amphitheater was banned.