Staff at Rome's Colosseum mourn Nerina the cat who enthralled millions of tourists down through the years.
"In loving memory of Nerina who loved and protected the Colosseum," reads a social media post, accompanied by a photo, published by the Parco Archeologico del Colosseo.
Considered the amphitheatre's mascot, for years Nerina featured in the photographs of countless tourists and followed tour groups, normally at a distance, and was doted on by the archaeologists and staff.
Nerina arrived at the Colosseum as a kitten and "immediately became the most pampered of all cats," the site's technical director and architect Barbara Nazzaro told Rome newspaper Il Messaggero.
"She grew up going up and down the stairs of all the levels, and she knew all the corners especially those where she could rest without being disturbed by tourists," said Nazzaro, adding: "Like all queens she didn't like being disturbed."
Nerina featured in numerous documentaries about the Colosseum and never missed an event, from the visits of Barack Obama and Prince Harry to the staging of Gladiator Live attended by Russell Crowe and Francesco Totti.
"We had to put up a sign years ago saying not to touch the cat because several tourists had to be treated after getting a good scratch" - Nazzaro told Il Messaggero - "I also bought her a red collar that read 'Don't touch me'."
Recently it was discovered that Nerina had cancer and was suffering from the advanced stages of leukemia.
After receiving medical treatment, the cat returned to the Colosseum to live out the rest of her days and continue her daily routines.
The death of Nerina this week has led to a flurry of messages, memories and photographs posted on social media by tourists from all over the world.
"She was much loved by all the staff" - Nazzaro told Il Messaggero - "It is hard to explain how such a small creature can leave such a big void."
Photo Parco Colosseo
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Colosseum bids farewell to mascot cat Nerina
Piazza del Colosseo, 1, 00184 Roma RM, Italy