Rome blocks cars and scooters as Italy’s major cities fight smog

Partial traffic bans have been introduced in Turin and Rome due to high air pollution levels as unseasonably mild weather has led to smog in Italy's major cities.

Rome blocks cars and scooters as Italy's major cities fight smog
File photo of smog in Milan: Marco Bertorello/AFP

The calm and dry weather of the past few days, including Thursday's bank holiday, may have seemed like good news for those enjoying festive celebrations, but it has allowed pollution to build up in Italy's biggest cities. 

In Rome, Sunday will be a semi-car-free day, with restrictions on motor vehicles introduced and police ready to hand out fines to those flouting the ban.

The first 'eco-Sunday' introduced by mayor Virginia Raggi will also see mopeds and motorcycles banned from the streets of the capital. Vehicles judged to be environmentally-friendly, including hybrids and electric cars, are exempt from the ban.

“Surveys have highlighted high pollution levels, and a critical situation which is expected to persist in the coming days,” a note from the city hall said.

Pollutants such as PM10 and nitrogen dioxide have reached high levels in the city, with the latter in particular significantly higher than European standards.

However, it's not a total ban, with the limits imposed only between 7:30am-12:30 and 16:30-20:20. Three more Eco Sundays are planned for the last weekends of January, February and March.

Turin in northern Italy will also introduce limits on cars from next Wednesday, following Tuesday's council meeting. The extent of the ban will depend on the severity of pollution levels over the weekend.

Local environment councillor Stefania Giannuzzi said that residents were encouraged to use alternative means of travel even before the bans are officially put in place.

Milan also recorded high levels of fine particle pollution (PM10) but no block on traffic has yet been put in place, because the recommended limit has not yet been surpassed for seven consecutive days. 

Since the beginning of the year, air pollution levels in Milan have exceeded European limits for a total of 52 days. That compares to 62 in Turin, 59 in Frosinone and 53 in Venice.

“The causes of smog are known and there are solutions,” the president of Legambiente, Rossella Muroni, said. “We need a strong political will to put them in place.”

Paris and Lyon in France have also been suffering from the smog in recent days, with Paris making all public transport free to residents. However, this measure was expected to be lifted over the weekend as air pollution levels began to fall.

But motorists aren't the only culprits. Last December, a town in Campania, near Naples, banned pizza-making over fears that the wood-burning ovens were contributing to pollution.




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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.