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25/07/2006 - Taxi strikes lead to negotiations

Over the last couple of weeks taxi-drivers all over Italy have staged a number of strikes, following the introduction of a law making it easier to obtain a taxi licence. Yesterday the mayor of Rome met a delegation of Roman drivers to discuss how the law is to be applied in the capital.

The resulting agreement should make things a little easier for customers while still protecting the drivers' "rights" to some extent. By the end of the year, 450 new licences will be issued. In addition, the hours worked by existing taxi-drivers will be extended, resulting in an additional one thousand taxis on the roads for most of the day and five hundred in the evening. (There are currently 5,900 licensed taxis in Rome altogether.)

Another important novelty is the introduction of a fixed tariff for rides to and from the airports. The exact amount has not yet been determined, but there is talk of 25-30 euro for Ciampino and 37-40 for Fiumicino.

In exchange for these concessions, the taxi drivers requested an increase in rates. The new conditions should become operative on September 15.

19/07/2006 - No more "Pane e coperto"?

In 1995, a law passed by the Lazio Regional Government obliged restaurants in the region - which includes Rome - to remove the item "Pane e coperto" from their bills. (A cover charge including bread has traditionally been charged throughout Italy.) Three years later it was back again, however, thanks to the European Union, which ruled that the regional law was invalid. Since 1998 there has been anarchy among restaurateurs, some applying an all-inclusive cover charge, some charging only for bread and some charging separately for the pane and the coperto.

Now the region is making another attempt to abolish the item. We don't yet know whether it will succeed, but our advice is to read the menu carefully: if it lists a cover charge, check whether bread is included, and if it isn't, make sure you know what you are going to pay for that basket of rolls placed so nonchalantly on your table by a passing waiter.

18/07/2006 - Roman Walls restored

In 2001, a stretch of the Roman walls near the start of the Via Appia suddenly collapsed into a heap of rubble, following heavy rain. The section in question is attached to the Museo delle Mura (Museum of the Walls), housed in one of the towers of Porta San Sebastiano. The damage has now been repaired and visitors to the museum are once more allowed to walk along the passageway along the top of the walls, formed when the ramparts were roofed over at some point in the Middle Ages.

For several years there has been talk about opening up the entire length of the walls - 12.5 km - to tourists, but it does not seem likely that the project will come to fruition in the near future.

18/07/2006 - Record year for Ciampino Airport

In 2005, the number of passengers in transit at Rome's second airport grew by 66.2 per cent to over 4.2 million, largely thanks to the new connections with other European countries introduced by low-cost carriers. This means, however, that the facilities are now under-dimensioned in relation to current needs. In the departure zone, the washrooms are decidedly inadequate and long queues tend to form at the security check, while the baggage reclaim area for arriving passengers badly needs additional capacity.

The airport's chief drawback, however, is its lack of a rail link to Rome. The town of Ciampino has a station, with fairly frequent trains to Termini, but you must first take a bus from the airport to the town. Alternatively, you can take a bus to Anagnina metro station and get an underground train: a good choice if you are staying in an area served by the Metro A, but bear in mind that it currently stops running at 21.00. (The local buses are operated by Cotral; unfortunately they are rather infrequent. You can buy a ticket on the bus for 1 euro.) There are taxis, of course - authorized taxis currently charge 25-35 euro, depending on which part of Rome you are going to - and also private bus links between Ciampino Airport to Termini station: Terravision charge 7 euro and Sitshuttle 6 euro. Lastly, if you are arriving late in the evening, you can take the Cotral night bus to Termini for 5 euro.

13/06/2006 - Corpus Christi celebrations

On Thursday June 15, Pope Benedict XVI will celebrate Corpus Christi with a mass in St. John Lateran at 18.00, followed by a procession to the basilica of St. Mary Major. Twenty thousand people are expected to line the streets to see the pope pass, accompanied by members of Rome's many fraternities dressed in traditional costume.

13/06/2006 - Upcoming strikes

More transport strikes are scheduled:

- by railway workers, starting June 20 (from 21.00 for 24 hours)

- by bus drivers on June 21 (4 hours)

- by railway workers (again - different unions) on July 8 (8 hours)

The strike by Alitalia flight assistants that had been planned for June 17 has now been called off.

13/06/2006 - Gay Pride celebrations

The traditional Gay Pride procession in Rome will be held on Saturday June 24. The slogan this year is "Di tutto, di più" (More of everything). The procession will start from Piazza della Repubblica at 17.00 and will end with festivities near the Colosseum.

06/06/2006 - "Oscar" wine awards

The wine "Oscars" this year included some unfamiliar names. First prize in the white category went to a wine from the Amalfi coast, Furore Bianco Fiorduva 2003 ; the best red was from Sardinia, Carignano del Sulcis Terre Brune 2001 ; Puglia took the rosé award with its Salice salentino Le Pozzelle 2004 ; the spumante Oscar went to Francia Corta Gran Cuvée Operé 2000 Bellavista ; and lastly, in the sweet category, the winner was Alto Adige Moscato Rosa 2004, Franz Haas .

30/05/2006 - Tomb dating from 10th century B.C. found in Caesar's Forum

Excavations in the Forum of Caesar, part of the Fori Imperiali, have unearthed a burial site that archeologists have dated to the 10th century B.C. Inside was the skeleton of a woman of about thirty, together with bronze and amber ornaments. Although the city of Rome is supposed to have been founded in 753 B.C., it has been established that there were settlements on some of the Seven Hills earlier than this and that their inhabitants buried their dead in the low-lying area later to become the Forum.

19/05/2006 - Ex-mayor nominated Minister of Tourism

Francesco Rutelli, mayor of Rome from 1994 to 2002, has been named as the new Minister for Culture and Tourism, following the handover of power to the left-wing parties that won the recent elections. The present mayor of Rome, Walter Veltroni, was Minister of Culture during Rutelli's term as mayor; so both are well acquainted with the problems of the capital and we can hope to see concerted action aimed at solving them.

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Temple of Romulus (Roman Forum)

Cloister of St. John Lateran

Spiral staircase in Palazzo Barberini

Temple of Diana (Villa Borghese)