PICTURES

Rome diverts traffic to protect Colosseum

Harley-Davidson motorcycles parade in front of the Colosseum in Rome on Saturday, June 15, 2013. -- FILE PHOTO: AP
Harley-Davidson motorcycles parade in front of the Colosseum in Rome on Saturday, June 15, 2013. -- FILE PHOTO: AP
The Colosseum in Rome on Thursday, July 25, 2013. -- FILE PHOTO: REUTERS
The Colosseum in Rome on Thursday, July 25, 2013. -- FILE PHOTO: REUTERS
A vendor holds up a Chinese paper umbrella on a hot summer day in front of Rome's ancient Colosseum on Sunday, July 28, 2013. -- FILE PHOTO: REUTERS
A vendor holds up a Chinese paper umbrella on a hot summer day in front of Rome's ancient Colosseum on Sunday, July 28, 2013. -- FILE PHOTO: REUTERS
A couple chats outside the Colosseum in Rome on Thursday, May 2, 2013. -- FILE PHOTO: AFP
A couple chats outside the Colosseum in Rome on Thursday, May 2, 2013. -- FILE PHOTO: AFP
The inside of the Colosseum is seen in Rome on Thursday, May 2, 2013. -- FILE PHOTO: AFP
The inside of the Colosseum is seen in Rome on Thursday, May 2, 2013. -- FILE PHOTO: AFP
A placard reading "No entrance during works" hangs in front of the Colosseum in Rome on Jan 18, 2013. The city of Rome has from Saturday, Aug 3, 2013, barred private vehicles from using the main road to the Colosseum in order to protect the iconic mo
A placard reading "No entrance during works" hangs in front of the Colosseum in Rome on Jan 18, 2013. The city of Rome has from Saturday, Aug 3, 2013, barred private vehicles from using the main road to the Colosseum in order to protect the iconic monument that has been blackened by pollution and is in a poor state. -- FILE PHOTO: AFP

ROME (AFP) - The city of Rome has from Saturday barred private vehicles from using the main road to the Colosseum in order to protect the iconic monument that has been blackened by pollution and is in a poor state.

Cars, lorries and other private vehicles were barred from using the last trunk of the avenue Via dei Fori Imperiali, which links Piazza Venezia to the Roman amphitheatre.

Traffic has been diverted to an adjacent route and only public transport will be allowed on the old route.

The decision was taken by the new mayor of Rome, Mr Ignazio Marino of the leftist Democratic Party, who would like to eventually make the Via dei Fori Imperiali a pedestrian area.

The number of visitors to the Colosseum, the biggest ancient Roman amphitheatre ever built, has increased from a million to around six million a year over the past decade, thanks mainly to the 2000 blockbuster film "Gladiator".

But it has also fallen into disrepair in recent years: bits of stone, blackened by pollution, have fallen off and some experts have voiced concern that the foundations are sinking, and the amphitheatre is starting to lean.

Long-delayed repairs to the 2,000-year-old monument, funded by Italian billionaire Diego Della Valle, are in the pipeline - but problems with red tape mean they have yet to get off the ground.