Forget lawnmowers – the Eternal City is pondering the possibility of sheep to tackle the problem of their unruly green spaces. Rome Mayor Virginia Raggi first pitched the unconventional idea to the city council last month. The capital’s environmental councillor, Pinuccia Montanari, is on board, praising the plan as “effective and sustainable” and a “simple method of keeping the grass down.” She also suggested the recruitment of farm animals would save the currently cash-strapped city €150,000 (£132,532) a year.
Most locals agree that Rome’s parks – ranging from Villa Borghese, to Villa Ada, to Villa Pamphilj and more – desperately need a good trim, with roughy 44 million square metres to maintain and only a few hundred gardeners available thanks to budget cuts. For fields where the grass is “particularly high,” Montanari and her staff are eager to enlist cows, adding that the city has a number of herds living already on its publicly-owned farms.
While some Romans expressed dismay over the move, fearing the spread of ticks and unpleasant odors, Rome is no stranger to swapping weedwackers for cattle: around 2000 sheep already keep the grass neat and trim at Parco della Caffarella, a vast verdant reserve on the outskirts of the city. Other European metropolises, meanwhile, have also mobilized livestock to feed. Berlin has embraced “eco-grazing,” employing sheep between May and November in the gardens of Charlottenburg Palace, while Paris recently placed a small herd of black Breton sheep in a grassy stretch of the city’s 19th Arrondissement.
Supporters of the initiative include the World Wildlife Fund along with Italy’s largest farmers’ union, who highlighted that there are currently 50,000 sheep near Rome eager to snack. “The capital can count on a veritable army of natural lawnmowers,” it said.