The Italian Almanac



The government plans to crack down on graffiti writers who spoil monuments, buildings and public transport vehicles, threatening jail terms and stiff fines, parliamentary sources said. In an amendment to the government`s public safety bill being discussed in the Senate, graffiti writers caught for a second offence would face a possible jail term of six months to two years and fines ranging from 1,500 to 10,000 euros. A first-time offender nabbed while defacing an important monument or historical building would face a jail term of three months to a year.

Graffiti is ubiquitous in Italy`s major cities, where there is scarcely a street untouched by paintings or, more commonly, scribblings and tags. Some local authorities, like the City of Rome, have launched crackdowns on the vandals whose work costs the state and city councils time and money in clean-up jobs. Most young Italian writers believe they cannot be stopped though, and say that writing in illegal places, where drawings and slogans will be conspicuous, is part of the thrill.

The alleged art form has deep roots in Italy. Early graffiti - literally ``scratchings`` - have been found on ancient Roman walls and monuments. Surveys have shown that for the majority of Italian youngsters, graffiti represents a form of art and not an act of vandalism. Many see it as a legitimate form of self-expression which improves the appearance of walls, particularly in remote or abandoned urban areas.