Rome is getting rid of one of the city’s most famous and photographed attractions – Roman centurion impersonators.
City authorities say the costumed centurion impersonators who photobomb tourists throughout Rome are becoming “annoyingly assertive” and their banning is aimed at “protecting tourists”.
The centurions are mostly found near Rome’s historically significant sites, posing and charging for photographs with tourists, pulling rickshaws or selling cheap souvenirs of the city.
Ancient centurions were military officers who enforced discipline, but this is one trait that is sadly lacking in Rome’s contemporary centurions who are becoming increasingly known for harassing and even attacking tourists.
City officials say it is necessary to rid Rome of centurions to protect visitors from aggressive sales tactics, especially before next year’s Jubilee of Mercy, a year-long Catholic event that is expected to attract up to 33 million pilgrims to Rome. The city typically sees 13 million visitors per year.
But the historical impersonators say that like the centurions they imitate, they will not go down without a fight. The centurions, most of whom come from the poorer areas of Rome, say banning them will only add to Italy’s growing ranks of the unemployed. Some recently arrived refugees and asylum seekers, have been recruited by tourist operators and souvenir shop owners to act as centurions.
A long time centurion performer scaled the walls of the Colosseum with a banner to protest against the ban, prompting one newspaper to write in an editorial, “The fact someone had evaded security at one of Italy’s most-visited sites and police were powerless to intervene caused concern about whether the city is ready for the Jubilee.”
One silver lining for the centurions, even though it’s far off in the horizon, is that since the protests, city officials are considering reducing the ban just for 2016 and the Jubilee of Mercy.