Rome to move horse-drawn carriages off the streets

Rome mayor hails "historic" decision to move botticelle from city streets.

Rome's horse-drawn carriages, or botticelle, are set to be moved off the streets to four of the capital's parks following legislation approved by the city council on 25 July.

The "historic" move will mean "no more tired horses forced to travel the city's streets among cars, under the sun", according to Rome's mayor Virginia Raggi of the populist Movimento 5 Stelle (M5S). The legislation now awaits approval by Rome's municipi (boroughs) before being passed definitively by the city assembly.

Raggi stressed that the legislation would not result in loss of work for the city's 41 botticelle drivers who are being offered the chance to switch to a taxi licence (free of charge) if they object to operating in parks.

Environmental association Verdi di Roma acknowledged that the move was a "first step towards eliminating the botticelle from Rome" but said the legislation was "insufficient" and called for the total abolishment of the carriage service which it described as an "instrument of suffering for horses."

A botticelle horse collapsed near Piazza Venezia in June 2016.

Under the legislation horses will not be permitted to work in temperatures above 30 degrees in the parks which include Villa Borghese, Villa Doria Pamphilj, Castel di Guido and Parco degli Acquedotti.

However, when the legislation was proposed earlier this year it was opposed by representatives of the carriage drivers, or vetturini, who described the steep roads required to reach Villa Pamphilj or Villa Borghese as "very dangerous" for the horses which are housed at stables in Testaccio. They also point out that although the city is prepared to issue them with taxi licences cost free, they would still have to buy the taxi vehicle.

The legislation is the latest in a series of moves against the presence of horse-drawn carriages on Rome's streets. In 2016, during her mayoral election campaign, Raggi pledged to eliminate the city entirely of botticelle, a promise that animal rights' acitivists have not forgotten in the intervening two years.

Rome's never-used electric botticelle have been in storage since 2012. 

More than a year ago the city attempted to revive a plan to replace Rome's horse-drawn carriages with electric vehicles, first suggested by former mayor Gianni Alemanno in 2012. However the plan was subsequently abandoned a second time due to opposition from the vetturini.

Raggi's predecessor Ignazio Marino introduced stricter rules governing the horses, particularly in relation to passenger numbers and operating in the summer heat.

Botticelle horse collapsed on Via del Corso in 2012.

Over the years there have been numerous clashes between carriage drivers and animal rights' activists who say the conditions in which the horses work are cruel and dangerous.

In June 2016 a botticelle horse collapsed near Piazza di Venezia and in October 2014 an 11-year-old horse drawing a carriage collapsed in the middle of Via del Corso. In July 2012 an exhausted horse collapsed in Piazza di Spagna, under the strain of carrying six tourists in 40 degree heat.

18-year-old Birillo died at work in 2008.

At least two of Rome's botticelle horses have died on the streets while working – one in 2007, the other in 2008.

Cover photo: La Stampa