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EARTHQUAKE

Fears for Colosseum as Rome Metro row delays urgent repairs

A row over the future of Rome's metro is threatening to delay urgent work to stabilize the Colosseum, adding to fears for the ancient amphitheatre after Italy's recent earthquakes caused troubling cracks in its exterior walls.

Fears for Colosseum as Rome Metro row delays urgent repairs

The 2,000-year-old, partly-ruined structure was allocated four million euros in 2014 to carry out reinforcements deemed necessary to offset the impact of tunneling for a new underground train line which will pass close by.

But the money was never released and guardians of the city's architectural heritage now fear it never will be after new mayor Virginia Raggi announced she plans to dissolve the underground company, Roma Metropolitana.

“By liquidating Roma Metropolitana, the mayor has left us without anyone to deal with regarding the financing needed for the urgent strengthening of the Colosseum,” a spokesman for the superintendent of the city's archaelogical treasures told AFP.

The superintendent himself, Francesco Prosperetti, has warned that he will seek to block any further work on the still-unfinished metro extension if the funds are not released.

“The Colosseum cannot wait any longer,” Prosperetti told Italian media. “As a citizen I would not like to delay the metro but as the defender of this monument I may not have any choice.”

Raggi has said work on the metro project will continue with new management progressively replacing Roma Metropolitana, an organization she has accused of overseeing the “shameful squandering of public funds.”

The new line is supposed to run from the city centre to the eastern suburbs. Most of it opened last year but the final section, which will bring it into the Colosseum area and connect with the capital's two other metro lines, remains unfinished.

Started in 2007 with a budget of 2.2 billion euros ($2.4 billion), the work is now forecast to cost at least 3.7 billion and Raggi has put plans for a northern extension of the line on indefinite hold.

Earthquakes in central Italy on August 24th, October 26th and October 30th were powerful enough in Rome to result in a number of new cracks appearing in the Colosseum's exterior walls.

But Italy's top tourist attraction has remained open to the public.

The landmark site has survived dozens of earthquakes over the centuries although it was a tremor that led to the collapse of its southern wall in 1703.

Prosperetti said work was most urgently required on interior walls in the top section of the structure, which is not open to the public.

The exterior of the Colosseum has recently been given a facelift thanks to a three-year clean-up financed by the upmarket fashion and footwear company Tod's.

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ROME

Body of missing American tourist found in Rome’s River Tiber

The body of a missing 21-year-old tourist was found in the River Tiber on Thursday morning, according to media reports.

Body of missing American tourist found in Rome's River Tiber

Elijah Oliphant, from Dallas, Texas, was on holiday with his family in Rome when he went missing several days ago.

Oliphant’s parents reported his disappearance after he left his hotel room shortly after midnight on May 24th and did not return.

Hotel security footage showed him leaving the premises wearing a white undershirt and pyjama bottoms, which he was wearing when he was found.

Oliphant’s corpse was reportedly spotted by passersby near the Ponte Sisto bridge in Rome’s Trastevere district around 10am on Thursday morning. His body was positively identified by his parents.

Members of the fire brigade and river police who recovered the body say there were no obvious signs of violence, but an autopsy will be conducted to determine the cause of death. Trastevere police are reportedly investigating the matter.

The Oliphant family had arrived in Rome for a holiday on May 23rd. When Elijah went missing the following day, his parents launched an urgent appeal to help find their son.

His disappearance was featured on the missing persons television show, Chi l’ha visto (‘Who’s seen them?’) on May 25th.

Several foreigners have been found drowned in the Tiber in recent years, though there are no indication that any of the incidents are linked.

In 2016, the body of 19-year-old American student Beau Solomon was recovered from the river.

Rough sleeper Massimo Galioto was charged involuntary manslaughter in the case, but was ultimately acquitted in 2020.

Prosecutors said that Galioto pushed Solomon in the course of a violent argument. Galioto’s defense team acknowledged that the two had argued but said the student had accidentally slipped.

In May 2019, 37-year-old Imen Chatbouri, a former athletics champion from Tunisia, was found dead in the Tiber after a night out. CCTV footage later showed she had been pushed from the Ponte Sisto bridge.

A then-26-year-old man whose advances she had rejected earlier that evening was convicted of her murder in November 2021.

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