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‘Olfactory molestation’: Italian high court rules that smelly food is a crime

The Supreme Court of Cassation, Italy’s highest court, ruled this week that cooking food with an unpleasant scent is a crime called “olfactory molestation.” (Getty Images)

If you’re not a good cook, it might be best to stay out of the kitchen — at least in Italy.

Cooks who allow an unpleasant scent to waft into their neighbor’s windows are now guilty of a crime, the country’s highest court ruled this week, according to a report from The Telegraph.

What’s the crime? “Olfactory molestation,” the Supreme Court of Cassation in Rome ruled.

The case arose out of a long-running battle between neighbors in an apartment complex in the town of Monfalcone along the Adriatic coast. Nearby residents complained about a married couple cooking large vats of pungent pasta sauces and “fritti misti,” a mixed fried seafood dish.

The food fight was first heard by a local court in the town of Gorizia. There, the offending couple was found guilty of anti-social behavior. The couple appealed that decision, taking the squabble to a higher court in Trieste, a nearby city.

When the higher court upheld the lower court’s ruling, the disgruntled duo took the case all the way to Rome, which ultimately upheld the two lower courts’ rulings.

The Roman judges said the couple’s unrelenting cooking brought about “the emission of odors and noises in the overhead apartment on the third floor,” which is owned by a different couple. The scent was so poignant, the judges determined, it was “beyond the limits of tolerability” and constituted what the court dubbed “olfactory molestation.”

“The whole of my apartment became impregnated with the smell of the pasta sauce and the fried fish,” one neighbor complained. “It felt like their kitchen was in my flat.”

As a result of the ruling, the high court dismissed the couple’s earlier appeals and ordered them to pay must more than $2,000.

Matteo Santini, a lawyer specializing in disagreements between neighbors, said frustrations over cooking smells are a frequent problem.

“The courts have to strike the right balance,” he told Italian newspaper La Repubblica.

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