What a stink! Pasta sauce aroma an offence, Italy rules

By Nick Squires

Prince Charles tastes a typical dish of pasta all'amatriciana in Amatrice, central Italy, this week. Photo / AP
Prince Charles tastes a typical dish of pasta all'amatriciana in Amatrice, central Italy, this week. Photo / AP

Cooking may be a national passion, but Italians who allow the 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 has even come up with a term for the culinary 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 is to the British.

The squabble first ended up in court in the town of Gorizia, where the couple who cooked the offending food were found guilty of antisocial 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, 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".

One of the neighbours complained that when the couple were cooking, "the whole of my apartment became impregnated with the smell of the pasta sauce and the fried fish. It felt like their kitchen was in my flat".

The Court of Cassation dismissed the offending couple's earlier appeals and ordered them to pay a fine of €2000.

Disputes over cooking smells are frequent in apartment blocks, said Matteo Santini, a lawyer who specialises in quarrels between neighbours.

Some claim compensation for having to move residence, while others claim they suffer depression and even psychological trauma from the waft of cooking odours.

"The courts have to strike the right balance (between people creating the smells and those complaining about them). There was a man who wanted to prosecute his neighbour because she cooked chicken soup at eight in the morning," Santini told La Repubblica newspaper.

One reason for the increase in complaints was Italy's growing immigrant population, with Italians objecting to aromas of "exotic" foods such as curries.

Restaurants that produce strong cooking smells have also been ordered to install better extraction fans and flues after neighbours in apartments above took them to court.

- Daily Telegraph UK

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