An influx of rats at Rome’s Colosseum, one of Italy’s most visited historic sites, has garnered attention from tourists and city officials alike over the past week.
While rats in the Italian capital are by no means a new phenomenon, authorities have ramped up extermination efforts in response to recent videos shared by tourists on social media that showed hordes of rodents in and around the ancient amphitheater, as well as the nearby Colle Oppio park and the ancient Domus Aurea palace complex. Officials currently estimate Rome’s rat population to be seven million, or two and a half rats per resident, according to a press statement.
Sabrina Alfonsi, the city’s councilor for Agriculture, Environment and Waste Cycle, told Adnkronos news agency on Saturday, August 26 that the Environmental Department and the Colosseum Archaeological Park tackled the rodent situation at the end of last week and into the weekend through a “joint intervention.” As part of the city’s extermination efforts, workers armed with shovels and trash bags heavily focused on clearing street drainage systems and the green spaces adjacent to the Colosseum.
Alfonsi pointed out in a statement that the recent infestation was likely the result of soaring temperatures in combination with litter discarded by large swaths of summer tourists. The Colosseum, which has stood for almost 2,000 years, usually attracts millions of visitors a year. The councilor noted that in recent weeks, “a large amount of rubbish, mainly plastic bottles” had been left behind in all areas surrounding the amphitheater.
Despite extreme weather and wildfires in recent weeks due to climate change, American tourism in Europe has climbed this summer after three years of travel restrictions and institutional closures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. In cities like London, Barcelona, Athens, and Rome, lines of tourists waiting to visit historic sites wrapped around sidewalks and stretched down streets at levels that haven’t been seen since before the pandemic. As a result, cities including Rome have had to not only accommodate the surge in visitors, but also deal with various bouts of unruly behavior, such as vandalism and trespassing.