Rome’s new mayor, Virginia Raggi, has used her first council meeting to ban people from dressing up as Roman gladiators and charging tourists for photos near the city’s famous attractions. A previous ban on gladiators, imposed in November 2015 by the interim mayor, Francesco Paolo Tronca, expired in June, and they had returned to popular tourist areas such as the Colosseum.
Raggi is keen to clean-up Rome’s image, and sees unlicensed gladiators and rickshaw drivers as part of the problem. In the past tourists have complained about gladiators charging extortionate amounts of up to €50 for photos. There have also been complaints about them groping female tourists and last summer one group was filmed stealing €100 from a Romanian journalist’s wallet. Authorities have claimed that the gladiators can make up to €200 per week. Anyone who ignores the new rules can be fined up to €400.
The gladiators claim that they are being unfairly victimized, and that they are an asset to the city’s tourist sites. One centurion told La Repubblica newspaper: “I take home between €40 and €50 a day … I take anything between one and five euros per photo. Following the previous ban, I was forced to beg for money on the street.” Another said, “We’re just part of the attraction and add to the atmosphere. We also help with security around here. Near the Colosseum we stopped a robbery the other day and once helped take down a man who was wielding a knife.”
A former lawyer, Raggi is Rome’s first female mayor, and is part of the populist, anti-corruption Five Star Movement, which was started by comedian Beppe Grillo in 2009.