Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia
Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia
Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia
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Italy culture minister clashes with Rome over Colosseum rats

Rome tourism councillor hits back at Italian culture minister.

Video footage of rats running around amid rubbish near the Colosseum has sparked a row between Rome officials and Italy's culture minister Gennaro Sangiuliano.

"It is shameful that the most important archaeological area in the world is in this condition", the minister told Tgr RAI Lazio on Monday, slamming the situation as "intolerable".

Sangiuliano stressed that the area where the rats were filmed by tourists comes under the remit of the city, not the culture ministry (or the Colosseum archaeological park).

The city intervened over the weekend to tackle the rat infestation in green areas around the Colosseum however the minister said he plans to convene talks to address the issue in the coming days, stating: "I'm not satisfied with a one-off cleaning only to find ourselves in the same situation in two weeks".

Sangiuliano also said the ministry was ready to "reclaim" the area around the Colosseum from the city of Rome, claiming there is a need for more regular cleaning as well as putting an end to the widespread practice of hawkers selling souvenirs and water illegally.

The capital's councillor for tourism and major events Alessandro Onorato hit back at the minister's remarks, boasting that "Rome will break every record for tourist arrivals this year."

"I'm sorry that Minister Sangiuliano underlines only one negative aspect without noticing the enormous effort made by the [city] administration to reach these numbers in tourism in the capital after years of stalemate for the sector," Onorato said, adding that the problem of rats affects big cities "from New York to London, from Paris to Milan."

Onorato said that tourists visiting Rome are more concerned about getting ripped off by touts reselling Colosseum tickets at "triple the price", a situation that "the state superintendence and culture ministry don't seem to want to see", describing it as an emergency "that damages Italy and the credibility of Rome".

The capital's environment councillor Sabrina Alfonsi also stepped into the debate, acknowledging that "like in every city in the world, there have always been rats in Rome and, I fear, there always will be", but stressing: "Rome is not a city overrun with rats".

She added that the presence of rodents near the Colosseum is likely linked to works being carried out in the area, describing it as a "very normal phenomenon that often occurs in conjunction with excavations, construction sites and earthmoving".

The director of the Colosseum archaeological park Alfonsina Russo on Monday clarified that the problem of rats "does not in any way concern the internal areas of the park" - which also includes the Roman Forum, Palatine Hill and Domus Aurea - where she said rat extermination is carried out "systematically".

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