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Rome diverts traffic to protect Colosseum

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    View of the Colosseum in Rome, on May 2, 2013. The city authorities in Rome have 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. (AFP/File)

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    This picture taken on July 5, 2013 shows a view of the Fori Imperiali avenue that leads to the Colosseum in Rome. The city authorities in Rome have 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. (AFP/File)

The city of Rome 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.

From 0300 GMT Saturday, 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, Ignazio Marino of the leftist Democratic Party, who would like eventually to 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.