At Large  August 28, 2023  Rebecca Schiffman

Audacious Rats Run Free in Rome's Colosseum

Wikimedia Commons

The Colosseum in Rome

It seems that the rat problem in New York City has decided to take its own Roman holiday: this past weekend, the Roman city government reported that they are working to solve a new rodent problem that was discovered by tourists at the Colosseum. The audacious rodents seem to have taken a page out of Julius Caesar’s playbook, conquering not just the streets of Rome but even the city’s most iconic ancient sites. 

Wikimedia Commons

A rat in a city street.

The report of rodents was brought on by a startling amount of photos and videos of the rats posted on social media. The city’s head of trash collection, Sabrina Alfonsi, is ready to solve the problem: she told Adnkronos news agency that they have already launched a “special intervention” last week and it will move into this week to eradicate the issue. The city government said in a statement that they will work on cleaning up the green areas surrounding the Colosseum as well as the drains where the rats live. They will also set up traps. 

The report also revealed an astounding amount of rats in the city: roughly seven million. This equates to about 2.5 rats for every inhabitant in Rome

The rat infestation was a brewing storm for months: the surge in tourists this summer mixed with a heatwave made trash pile-up around the historic site in record amounts. With no extra waste management hired, the rubbish quite literally became a perfect breeding ground for rodents. 

Wikimedia Commons

Seating tiers at the east entrance of the Colosseum

The Eternal City is one of the most visited cities in the world, with over 15 million tourists counted just last year, but the public services such as waste management, have had trouble keeping up with the demand. 

This is not the first time rats have threatened both tourism of a city and a historic landmark. In the summer of 2014, the gardens at the Louvre in Paris were overrun with rodents. Similarly to the case with the Colosseum, photos and videos posted online prompted French authorities to call in pest controllers. The problem at the Louvre was also brought on by a peak in tourism and thus an overload of rubbish and scraps of food discarded in the hedges. 

It’s clear from both cases that there are tourists who unfortunately display disrespectful behavior when visiting historic sites, which actually has a profound impact on the historical and cultural significance of these places. This is a great reminder that to preserve these treasures for future generations requires responsible tourism. Always carry out your trash, be mindful of local customs and regulations, and leave nothing but footprints to ensure the conservation of thee invaluable heritage sites.

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