Rome's costumed 'gladiators' forced out of city centre

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Rome's costumed 'gladiators' forced out of city centre
A man dressed as a centurion jokes with tourists. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

The costumed 'gladiators' who pose for pictures with visitors in return for tips have been banished from Rome's historic centre with a new regulation from mayor Virginia Raggi.


Rome's local authorities have been battling with the gladiators (which is what they call themselves most of the time, despite usually dressing as Roman centurions) for years, accusing the street artists of over-charging, intimidating, and even pick-pocketing unsuspecting tourists.

Now, anyone caught dressed as a historical figure for photos and video will face a fine of up to 400 euros - even if they weren't actively requesting cash.

Similar bans were in place between November 2015 and April this year, when a court overturned the prohibition, siding with a group representing street artists and centurions.

Speaking at the weekend, Raggi said the new ban was justified because the costumed figures "have a negative effect on road traffic and prevent the full enjoyment of the monuments and scenic beauty of the city".

She also said those who worked in the trade were "persistent and sometimes aggressive towards visitors" to the ancient city.

Back in 2002, a law obligated costumed 'street actors' to pass an exam, including English language and a general culture test, before they could work in the capital.

The first ban in 2015 introduced a €400 fine for those caught in costume, and updating these regulations was one of the first things mayor Virginia Raggi did after her election.

One of the main issues is that the gladiators often aren't clear that that there's a charge for a photo with them, and some are conned out of large amounts for a photo - particularly if they haven't worked out the conversion rate of their currency into euro.

A viral video in 2015 showed a Romanian TV crew getting their wallets stolen by a group of Colosseum centurions who took €100 as compensation for a couple of photos in front of Rome's most iconic building.

In the video, the Romanian film crew ask onlooking police officers to help them get their money back, but the officers advise them it's better not to take action.

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