Rental car shenanigans are a time-honored tradition, from Steve Martin and John Candy burning down a Chrysler LeBaron Town & Country Convertible in Planes, Trains and Automobiles to a friend of mine v-maxing a Grand Caravan at Sebring with both sliding doors open. However, it’s entirely possible to go too far, as one tourist recently found out.
According to the Telegraph, the story goes like this. On May 11, a Saudi engineer was driving his rented Maserati Levante around Rome and ended up driving down Scalinata di Trinita dei Monti, otherwise known as the iconic Spanish Steps. Wait a second. An engineer doing some impromptu off-roading in a Stellantis product? David Tracy, come get your mans! Oh, did I mention that this urban descent was captured on CCTV? Have a look.
Saudi man charged after Maserati driven down Rome’s Spanish Steps pic.twitter.com/JAgYrTb4Lw
— krunskisvedok (@noviput) May 15, 2022
Man, this remake of the ZJ Jeep Grand Cherokee launch sucks, am I right? Believe it or not, this tourist managed to guide the Levante all the way down the steps before allegedly getting out of the crossover and dashing away from the damaged landmark before a tow truck picked up the messed-up Maser. Damaged landmark? Ah, yeah.
See, the Levante has just enough ground clearance to feel like an SUV but doesn’t actually have much capability. The undercarriage of a jacked-up Ghibli bashing off of 300-year-old marble steps is going to mess some stuff up. I’m not talking about the Maserati, it might have needed a tow truck anyway. I’m talking about the steps. CNN reports that the 16th and 29th steps of the right-hand flight were fractured, while numerous other steps had “chippings, scratches, abrasions and deposits,” according to a statement released by Rome’s heritage body.
The spontaneous urban rock-crawler was apprehended at Milan’s Malpensa airport on Friday and charged with aggravated damage to cultural and monumental assets. It likely wasn’t hard to find the driver. How many Levantes get rented out in the first place? Anyway, the Saudi embassy has reportedly arranged a legal team for the driver that helped coordinate an official statement.
According to the driver, his sat-nav directed him down the steps. Now hold on a minute. I understand that it was dark out but the headlamps on a Levante aren’t exactly rubbish, so it should’ve been easy to see a marble staircase, even if the navigation system was suggesting it as a shortcut. There are bollards and a yellow line and a clearly-marked pedestrian crossing that should set off bells in any sentient beings head that ring with notes of “Hey, don’t drive through here.”
If the rented Maserati wasn’t a sign that the driver was well-to-do, Corriere Della Sera reports that he’s willing to pay for damages to the most famous staircase in the world. Look, I know that the Philadelphia Museum of Art steps may also be famous, but Sylvester Stallone isn’t Audrey Hepburn. [Editor’s Note: I checked, and this seems to be accurate. Audrey Hepburn and Sylvester Stallone are, in fact two separate people. Sure loved Hepburn in Rocky IV. – JT]
Funnily enough, this isn’t even the first time someone’s driven down the Spanish Steps, but it is the first time someone’s driven all the way down the famous staircase. NBC reported that in 2007, a drunk 24-year-old man sent his Toyota Celica down the steps. Needless to say, he didn’t make it all the way to the bottom. Neither did another drunk motorist in 2018 who, according to Wanted in Rome, attempted to descend the staircase in his Peugeot 206CC at 6:30 in the morning. Come on, that’s far too early to mess up a globally iconic landmark.
Honestly, I hope this mess gets sorted out properly. The Spanish Steps are lovely and the driver’s sat-nav excuse seems plausible. I mean come on, who gets out of a vehicle to realize it’s on a staircase unless they’ve inadvertently fucked up? Still, this incident serves as a reminder to always trust your eyes more than your navigation system. Hey, maybe the Levante’s not trail-rated, but a piazza-rated badge almost seems apt now.