Rome: Rome has banned the traditional horse-drawn carriages from operating on the city’s streets, ordering that the so-called botticelle can only circulate in public parks and historic villas.
Under the new rules approved by the city assembly on 1 December, the horses must follow established routes, with stops scheduled every 45 minutes and for no more than seven hours a day.
The animals will also not be allowed to circulate from midday until 17.30 in the hottest months of the year, July and August.
In addition the city has offered the botticelle drivers the option to switch to a taxi license.
The horse-drawn carriages are popular with tourists – currently in scarce supply – and drivers have been known to charge €100 per customer for a tour of the city’s landmarks.
The ban was welcomed by Rome mayor Virginia Raggi who wrote on her Facebook page: “Carriages will no longer be able to circulate in the streets, in the traffic, but only inside the historic parks.”
The move, aimed at protecting the horses after years of debate over their well-being, was announced by the city in July 2019 with Raggi announcing at the time: “No more exhausted horses on the streets! Rome leader in safeguarding and protecting animals.”
The same news was also announced by the city in July 2018 when Raggi said the “historic” move would mean “no more tired horses forced to travel the city’s streets among cars, under the sun.”
However over the years the legislation has been met with fierce opposition from the carriage drivers who succeeded in blocking the measure through the courts, and are now reportedly preparing to challenge the latest move by the city.
“Trade in the parks will never be the same as the sort of business you can do in the city centre,” said Angelo Sed, head of carriage drivers’ association Nuova Associazione Vetturini Romani.
Critics of the new order also point out that the animals will still have to make the journey through the streets from their stables in Testaccio to the city’s parks.
And, for animal rights’ activists, the measures do not go far enough: they want the botticelle banned definitively, as promised by Raggi in her election campaign four years ago.
Over the years there have been numerous clashes between carriage drivers and animal rights’ activists who describe the city’s streets as a “cruel” working environment for the horses, several of whom have collapsed and died under the strain of the summer heat.
In 2008 an 18-year-old horse died while at work near the Colosseum. In 2012 an exhausted horse collapsed in Piazza di Spagna, under the strain of carrying six tourists in 40 degree heat. The driver attempted to beat the animal back to work and only ceased following the intervention of police.
In 2014 a horse collapsed on Via del Corso, near Italy’s parliament, after the driver claimed it slipped in oil, with the same thing happening near the Spanish Steps last October.