Another legal curiosity:

It's been alleged that people in Milan have to smile by law. Is this true? If so, what is the legislation?

  • +5. That's a very common claim mentioned on almost all news articles. Commented Jun 5, 2015 at 13:58
  • 6
    I was born in Milan and lived there for 25 years. Never heard of such nonsense before...
    – nico
    Commented Jun 5, 2015 at 16:45
  • The first claim on that article has been disproved here
    – March Ho
    Commented Jun 5, 2015 at 19:13

1 Answer 1


In this 2014 Corriere della Sera article, “historian” Andrea Santangelo describes this rule, which he also mentions in his and Lia Celi's book Mai stati meglio, as coming from a nineteenth century Regolamento urbano (City regulations) imposed by the Austrians then ruling over Milan, due to one “Luigi Fabio”, and never repealed since then.

Via i mugugni, basta facce smorte, niente musi lunghi: a Milano si sorride per legge. Lo dice un Regolamento urbano del periodo austroungarico. «Altri tempi sì, le cose nel frattempo sono cambiate, ma la legge non è mai stata abrogata...» [...] «Erano esonerate – chiosa Santangelo – le persone che partecipavano a funerali, quelle che in ospedale entravano o vi lavoravano». Per gli altri, nessuna scusa a meno di non voler incorrere in una multa pecuniaria. «Abbiamo trovato il riferimento a questa regola in un articolo del “Telegraph” del 2004, ripreso poi in siti che raccolgono stranezze legislative». [...] il regolamento serviva «per dare risalto alla città di Milano stando a quanto sosteneva un consigliere di allora, tale Luigi Fabio (con quei nomi ne abbiamo trovato più d'uno)».

Down with grumbles, no more glumness or long faces: in Milan law compels you to smile. It is prescribed by a City regulation from the Austro-Hungarian times. «Other times, indeed, things are different now, but that law was never repealed...» [...] «There were exemptions – Santangelo adds – for people taking part in funerals, for those who entered or worked in hospitals». For everybody else there was no excuse, the alternative being incurring in a fine. «We found this rule mentioned in a 2004 Telegraph article, since taken up again in sites collecting legal oddities». [...] this rule was supposed to «give prominence to the city of Milan, according to what a councilman of those times said, a Luigi Fabio (we found more than one with this name)».

One has to be cautious, though, since Santangelo and Celi themselves say, as seen, that they found this rule in a Telegraph article, later quoted in sites of legal oddities. And, looking in Google Books for the relevant passage in Mai stati meglio, just a cursory mention can be found, apparently without any reference.

  • 1
    Could you provide a translation of the description?
    – March Ho
    Commented Jun 6, 2015 at 9:15

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