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Stinky cooking odours constitute a crime, Italy's supreme court rules
Nick Squires, Rrome
05 April 2017
Residents of an apartment block in northern Italy complained about the cooking smells coming from their neighbours' flat.
Credit: Andrew Crowley/Telegraph
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
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
found guilty of anti-social behaviour
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
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”.
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
The Court of Cassation dismissed the offending couple’s earlier appeals and ordered them to pay a fine of 2,000 euros.
Disputes over cooking smells are frequent in apartment blocks, said
Matteo Santini, a lawyer who specializes 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,” Mr Santini told La Repubblica newspaper.
One reason for the increase in complaints was Italy’s growing immigrant
population, with Italians objecting to the aroma of “exotic” foods such
as curries and stir fries heavy on garlic. Restaurants that produce
strong cooking smells have been ordered to install better extraction
fans and flues after neighbours in apartments above took them to court.