Rome suspends Tiber cruises

Tourist cruises along the Tiber have been suspended indefinitely by the management company Roma Barche due to the polluted condition of the capital's river.

Tour operator Mauro Pica Villa of Roma Barche told French news agency AFP that the company did not open for business as usual after Easter as it was too ashamed to show tourists the Tiber in its current state of abandonment.

Pica Villa described the embankments as "grey with pollution" and said the trees that line the river are strewn with refuse and there are homeless people camped under the bridges.

The last time the river was cleaned was in 2009 when 570 tons of rubbish was removed from between Ponte Milvio and Ponte Marconi. The city cleaned the banks while the Lazio Region funded the cleaning of the river.

The situation is complicated by a century-old law that classifies the Tiber's waters as "maritime", meaning the city administration is not responsible for the upkeep of Italy's third-longest river.

The cruises, which were introduced a decade ago by then-mayor Walter Veltroni, initially proved very popular, selling 40,000 tickets a year.

However many tourists complained that they saw very little of the city – apart from its bridges – as the embankments are so high and the river so low.