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Rome's Colosseum urged to close as tourists collapse in heatwave

Clare Speak
Clare Speak - [email protected]
Rome's Colosseum urged to close as tourists collapse in heatwave
A tourist shelters from the sun at the Colosseum. There were calls for the attraction to do more to protect visitors as intense heat continued this week. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP)

There have been calls for the Colosseum to be closed to tourists during the hottest hours amid reports of "70 to 80" visitors per day falling ill in the extreme heat.

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After Athens recently ordered the closure of the Acropolis during the hottest hours of the day to protect tourists, Rome is being urged to follow suit by closing its biggest attraction at midday as emergency services struggle to respond to a high number of calls amid intense heat.

"Walking among the scorching-hot stones of the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill poses a serious health risk to visitors, tour guides, and those who work there daily," Italian art historian and tour guide Roberta Bernabei told Italian newspaper Il Messaggero.

In a letter to the attraction's management, she had urged them to consider changing the opening hours in summer, closing between noon and 4.30 or 5pm instead of remaining open throughout the day.

She said current opening times were "no longer suitable for climate change, which makes a visit in the middle of the day a real health hazard."

READ ALSO: Should you reconsider travel to Italy during a heatwave?

On Sunday, three more visitors were reportedly taken to hospital after collapsing at the attraction due to heatstroke, as was a 70-year-old American visitor who fell ill on nearby via di San Gregorio.

"Of the three individuals who fell ill [at the Colosseum], one sustained a head injury from a fall," Marco Milani, head of Rome’s police union, told local media

Tourists cool off before entering the Colosseum on July 24th, 2023 in Rome during an intense heatwave. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP)

"City police had to improvise as rescuers while waiting for ambulances,” he said.

“In one instance, the response time was 60 minutes due to a shortage of resources compared to the high number of emergency calls."

READ ALSO: Heatwaves mean Italian tourism ‘has no future’: German health minister

He said such episodes "are now daily” at the Colosseum and blamed “a lack of fixed assistance and refreshment points, in a situation that sees endless lines of people in front of the entrances and ticket offices.”

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Colosseum security staff anonymously told news agency AGI that there have been “70 to 80” incidents of heatstroke at the attraction per day.

“Not all of them require the attention of the emergency services, sometimes these are passing episodes,” they said.

One tour guide at the site told AGI “three girls fainted in my group alone yesterday”.

Italy’s civil protection service distributes water to tourists at Rome’s Colosseum. (Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP)

Temperatures have repeatedly exceeded 40 degrees Celsius in Rome over the past week amid a prolonged heatwave which continues to scorch southern and central Italy.

The cobblestones at the Colosseum can reach temperatures of up to 55 degrees celsius, staff told AGI.

The Colosseum is Italy’s biggest tourist attraction, with an average of 20,000 to 24,000 visitors every day.

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Fans equipped with nebulizers have been installed outside the entrances and civil protection staff deployed to hand out bottles of water to queuing tourists amid the heatwave, but many media reports pointed out that often the only water available for queuing tourists was sold at inflated prices by street vendors.

The Colosseum’s management had not responded to a request for comment at the time of writing.

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Kris 2023/07/26 03:42
So many people in the pictures not wearing hats which leads to overheating. People should also take some responsibility for themselves with wearing hats and drinking water when it's hot.

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