Cooking may be a national passion, but Italians who allow the pungent aroma of a simmering pot of pasta sauce or a vat of deep fried fish to waft into a neighbour’s home are committing a crime, the country’s highest court has ruled.
In the best traditions of legalese the world over, the Court of Cassation in Rome even came up with a term for the offence – “olfactory molestation”.
The ruling emerged from a long-running battle between neighbours in an apartment block in the town of Monfalcone on the Adriatic coast, close to the border with Slovenia.
Residents complained about a married couple in their block cooking up vats of rich pasta sauces and “fritti misti” or mixed fried seafood, a dish that is as beloved to Italians as fish and chips are to the British.
The squabble first ended up in a court in the town of Gorizia, where the couple who cooked the offending food were found guilty of anti-social behaviour.
They appealed to a higher court in the nearby city of Trieste, which in turn upheld the sentence. Not content with that decision, they then took the case all the way to the Court of Cassation in Rome, which after much deliberation upheld the rulings of the two lower courts.
The judges in Rome said the couple’s enthusiastic cooking resulted in “the emission of odours and noises in the overhead apartment on the third floor,” owned by another couple. The smells were so strong that they were “beyond the limits of tolerability” and constituted what the court called “olfactory molestation”.