Oddly Enough

Rome banishes centurion impersonators ahead of Holy Year

A member of the Gruppo Storico Romano (Roman Historical Group) dressed as a centurion marches to mark the 2764th anniversary of the founding of Rome April 17, 2011. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

ROME (Reuters) - Rome has banned centurion impersonators who charge to scowl in photos around the ancient Colosseum amphitheatre and frequently come under fire for their pushy tactics with tourists.

The Italian capital is imposing extra security measures and sprucing up parks and piazzas as it gears up to host a Catholic Holy Year, or “Jubilee”, that could draw millions of tourists.

City hall said the Roman soldiers, many of whom hail from the poorer periphery and commute for hours to the historic center, pose risks both to people’s safety and the “respectability” of the city’s numerous monuments.

“These individuals often act inappropriately, they are persistent and at times aggressive,” it said in a statement.

Offering rides in rickshaws and other wheeled vehicles has also been forbidden in some parts of town, and roving salesmen peddling tours or museum tickets has also been prohibited.

All of these money-making schemes could be dangerous in areas likely to get crowded when the Jubilee, one of the Catholic Church’s most important events, starts on Dec. 8, city hall said.

Officials expect this Holy Year, in which faithful make pilgrimages to Rome and other religious sites, to attract fewer visitors than the last iteration, which attracted millions of pilgrims in 2000, partly because of security concerns.

Reporting by Isla Binnie