The intangible realms of souls and cyberspace have been brought together with the creation of an on-line cemetery, or city of remembrance. Launched by the municipal agency for the environment (AMA) last November, the scheme means that most people interred in Roman municipal graveyards since 1950 now have virtual tombstones on the internet where friends and relatives can leave messages.

Aimed at those who have difficulty reaching Romes cemeteries to pay their respects, the service is free and accessible from AMAs website at www.amaroma.it. Mourners simply enter the details of the deceased and select the appropriate person from the results returned. They are then directed to a virtual grave, which features a soothing picture of a dove and a rainbow, and offers the option of leaving either thoughts or cyber-flowers on the site. With a couple of clicks of the mouse users can send a message or one of six bunches of virtual flowers, which immediately appear on the grave together with the senders name. And unlike real flowers, these remain fresh on the site indefinitely, as do the messages posted there.

Work is also underway to provide users with a pop-up map of where exactly in a graveyard the deceased is located.

The virtual cemetery features everyone who has a post-1950 contract for burial in one of the raised tombs (locoli) in the Roman cemeteries. Its records do not include anyone who is buried in the ground or in a family tomb.