Rome bans Centurions from tourist sites

A man dressed as a Roman Centurion waits for tourists near the Ancient Forum on 19 November, 2015 in Rome Image copyright AFP
Image caption The ban comes ahead of the Catholic Jubilee year, starting on 8 December

Rome has banished the Centurions from its ancient sites.

Impersonators of soldiers from ancient Rome have been a common sight at the Colosseum, Forum and other major sites, posing for photos in return for cash.

But from Thursday, the Centurions are outlaws - along with bicycle-drawn rickshaw drivers and ticket touts.

City commissioner Francesco Paolo Tronca issued the decree ahead of the Catholic Jubilee year, an important tourist event starting on 8 December.

He is in charge of the city pending the election of a new mayor and cited security issues as well as protecting tourists from scams as the reasons for the decree.

It spoke of the "inappropriate, insistent and sometimes aggressive" behaviour of Centurions, who charge between €5 and €10 ($5.3-$10.6) for a photo. They can also get tips from tour organisers for persuading tourists to go on guided trips.

Spruced up

Many of the impersonators commute in from poorer districts of the capital. There have been incidents of "gladiators" attacking each other to defend their pitches at lucrative sites.

Offering a ride in a rickshaw is also banned in some areas, as are touts offering bus and museum tickets.

This year Pope Francis declared an Extraordinary Jubilee Year for the Catholic Church, beginning on 8 December, the 50th anniversary of the end of the Second Vatican Council.

It will end on 20 November 2016, the Feast of Christ the King.

Parks and piazzas are being spruced up for the event, which is expected to boost the numbers of visitors to Rome significantly.

Millions of pilgrims attended the last event in 2000.

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