These are a few tips for my fellow photographers who have also caught the travel bug and happen to want to visit Italy and in particular the ancient city of Rome. I am hoping you these simple tidbits informative and useful.
1) No Military Photos
In visiting Rome, Italy, I learned that it is illegal for anyone to take photos of the Italian military equipment, vehicles, or especially personnel in uniform. I found out this useful piece of information the hard way. The smallest dispatches are grouped into at least two soldiers each, and typically there is a camo truck close at hand. The military dispatches move from place to place, standing watch or providing security outside national monuments and churches.
So it happened that my family and I visited the Vatican one morning, and upon seeing a group of nearby military personnel I figured they would make cool photographic models. I pointed my the lens of my DSLR and started snapping away. The Italian military must have bionic hearing capabilities, or at least this one did because he turned around pretty quickly after the first shutter release.
He shook his head in a negative manner and gestured for me to come to him. He gave the necessary explanation and had me delete the pictures I had taken of him. On at least two other occasions I saw soldiers lightly reprimand anyone pointing a phone or camera in their general vicinity. Just don’t take photos of anyone or anything military-related while you are in Italy.
2) Asking Before You Take
This is kind of a runner-up to the first rule of thumb. And it should be really easy. If you’re a portrait photographer or street photographer then you could very well be used to people not wanting their picture being taken. Try to think about it from this point of view: some people don’t want to be your subject, your “guinea pig” in a sense.
Some people may see their situation like that and just want to go about their lives without being a photographic subject. So asking first if you can take a person’s picture is an extremely good habit and practice to get into. It makes you a kinder, more efficient, and all around better photographer. Simply ask a person who is also desirable subject, “May I take your picture?” In Italian, the question is, “Posso prendere la tua foto?”
3) Heeding the Rules for Church Photography
All of Italy is dotted with thousands of churches and chapels large and small: some ancient, some medieval, and many of them quite grand. In many of them, photography is allowed, but in many others, photography is not permitted. For instance, when my family and I visited Rome and Assisi there were several major well-known churches and basilicas that did not allow photos or even videos to be taken in the church interiors. And there are usually guards checking to make sure the rules are being followed.
It’s really best that you obey those as well as all the rules posted on signs including appropriate dress code. And that goes for everyone whether a photographer or not. If you may take photos then be as quiet and discreet as possible. Try to be respectful. A church is a place where pilgrims and other people come to pray and worship.
4) No Tripods in the Vatican
This and the last tip I give are pretty much set in stone and self-explanatory. No tripods in the Vatican. It’s not like the Vatican police are going to take your tripod away if they see you with it out (unless you’re doing something very bad or unusual with it). They will just ask you to put it away and not use it while you are in the Vatican. That’s what happened to me, but it only happened on my second visit to the Vatican while using my tripod – and not my first!
5) No Tripods in the Colosseum
This is practically the same as the last. After spending about three or four minutes setting up a tripod, a timer, and my camera, and when I was about to start recording a video, a security lady came up to me and said I could not use the tripod inside the Colosseum. As you can imagine I was fairly fed up with the “camera Nazis,” but I still respected their rules and took the next few minutes to put away all the gear I had just brought out.
In cases such as the Vatican and the Colosseum, I would suggest using an action cam or your phone attached to a selfie stick because I saw everyone was allowed to use those. I hope this was helpful. When traveling, set aside some time to just enjoy taking in the sights with the two lenses you have in your own head. Have fun wherever life takes you, and never stop taking photos (unless it’s against the rules)!