A Hapless Tourist Sent A Maserati Levante Down The Spanish Steps Because He Said His Nav Told Him To

Maserati Levante Spanish Steps

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.

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.

Spanish Steps From The Top
Screenshot: Google Streetview

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.

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49 Responses

  1. Definitely dumb, but the area could be less confusing. Another bollard would be good. Also, the fact that the crosswalk marks continue where there isn’t actually a road doesn’t really make sense…it kind of suggests that there is still road there.

  2. I wish we could find out what the repair estimates are-for both the stairs & Maserati. Would also like to read a translation ( NOT done by Google! ) of local leading newspaper’s write-up of this: I bet people are >pissed< !

    1. Makes you think? Government housing lasts 50 years before it’s sold on the cheap to developers because it’s considered no repairable, yet Italy thinks stairs over 1000 years old have value? What are they made of Pokémon cards?

        1. its ok. not super. cobblestone streets are a mf for pushing a wheelchair on. food of course is amazing. but its busy as shit. florence is where its at in italy for me. its so nice. not nearly as busy. clean, great architecture. venice has the same issues as rome with the addition of not being able to find anything because the signage is non existent and gps was little to no help.

  3. While on business travel, my wife admits her rental navigation system and Google maps took her and a coworker off to a deserted road that progressively disappeared until they stopped at a river. The navigation system was still prompting them to keep going. I asked her if a van was parked there.

  4. I drove across the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art once – the parking lot at the side of the building was full and it ended in a dead end, but the barricades had been moved, so I kept going and crossed to the other side. Maybe we were allowed to do that, I don’t know, but there was a crowd of Japanese tourists that had to move out of the way

  5. My Latin and Harry Potter knowledge isn’t bombproof, but I think the Levante is supposed to go UP the steps, not down.

    Either way, this was very much a MALPENSA (bad idea. You know, like the jeans company.)

  6. In this case i can see how a mistake can be made.
    -The steepness wouldnt be immediately apparent, just like the steeper type of ramps in multilevel parking.
    -Many Italian towns have weird and tight streets.A tourist could easily get confused about what’s meant to be legal and whats not.
    The yellow line doesnt mean much and the bollards clearly have a bigger gap for *something*.
    Even the pedestrian crossing isnt very clear.
    I’m not saying i’d do this.Just that it’s partly understandable

  7. A few years ago, my wife and I were staying near the Spanish Steps and walked through this area several times before we discovered that we had been taking unnecessary detours because the street this driver turned off of was not on our paper map. This is one of those cases where GPS can cause problems a lot faster than a paper map.

    1. I’ve been there as well. That part of Rome is tightly packed with narrow streets. It’s an old, organic layout instead of a grid like New York, so it’s at least plausible he took a wrong turn. Another possibility is that he used his phone and had it set for pedestrian vs. car directions.

    1. I’d imagine that drunkenness is somewhat frowned upon by Saudi authorities too, so the sat-nav excuse seems the more prudent option after buying enough time to sober up.

  8. I was visiting Belfast in 2006 or so and I had a rental Peugeot 307. I got very lost, drove down some alley, ended up in a pedestrian square, panicked, and drove down another alley, down a set of stairs, and back onto the road. This was pre-GPS, so there’s that, at least.

    1. It’s same at the top of the steps on the other side. I think this place gets so mobbed with tourists that they’re trying keep the crosswalks mostly unimpeded and the bollards are to keep cars out of that area off to the right of the picture.

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