?Botticelle

Animal rights activists and politicians have called on Rome's mayor Gianni Alemanno to take action after a number of recent incidents involving the maltreatment of horses used to draw the carriages known as "botticelle" around the capital.

After being alerted by an animal rights activist, police stopped a carriage driver from continuing to carry six passengers on Via dei Fori Imperiali during the weekend of 28 July. This led to chaotic scenes as the tourists demanded the return of their reported €600 fee while the driver - joined by his colleagues - threatened the activist who escaped on a bicycle.

It follows on incident on 27 July when a horse, under strain from the 40 degree heat, collapsed in Piazza di Spagna. Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera reported that passersby called for the animal to be assisted as the driver attempted to beat the horse back to work and only stopped after police intervened.

Opposition member of the city government Monica Cirinnà said the horses should not have to work in such hot temperatures while the Partito Animalista Europeo has filed a complaint of animal cruelty against the city, which it says should introduce independent patrols to enforce regulations governing the carriages popular with tourists.

In late 2011, as part of the reform of the taxi industry, the city introduced new regulations providing for the welfare of the horses, with one of the laws obliging drivers to rest their animals during the hottest hours of the day during the summer months.

Over the years there have been regular appeals for the abolition of the carriage service and drivers have become infamous for flouting the rules that govern their trade. In 2009 two horses died in harness, with authorities forced to put one of the animals down on Via dei Fori Imperiali.