The Italian Almanac

driving downstairs

Driving Downstairs

A drunken man drove a sports car down Rome's Spanish Steps at dawn on Wednesday, thinking the world-famous monument was a city street. The man, identified as a 24-year-old Colombian, apparently turned down onto the monumental stairway - the longest and widest in Europe - at a fair speed. About half-way down his bumpy descent he realised his error, got out of the car and tried to push it back up with the help of disco-goers who gather there for early-morning refreshment.

The effort soon proved impossible because of the steep incline so the man's helpers decided to ease the Toyota Celica down to the bottom. Meanwhile police had arrived on the scene. They booked the man for drunk driving and called in conservation experts who started inspecting the 18th-century landmark for damage.

It was not, however, the first time that cars have come down the Spanish Steps. In 1963 a famous policeman followed a running thief down them in the Ferrari that was standard flying-squad issue in those days. In 1993 a gypsy managed to get all the way down in a stolen Mercedes but was headed off as he tried to get out of Piazza di Spagna. In 2003 a Roman motorist took a wrong turning in his BMW but stopped at the first terrace.