ROME (AP) — Thick snowflakes fell on Rome on Friday, forcing the closure of the Colosseum over fears tourists would slip on the icy ruins, and leaving buses struggling to climb the city's slushy hills. Other parts of the country experienced frigid temperatures unseen in years.
The snowfall prompted authorities to stop visitors from entering the Colosseum, the adjacent Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill, the former home of Rome's ancient emperors.
The director of the Colosseum, Rossella Rea, said the sites were closed out of fears that visitors could slip on ice.
The last substantial snowfalls in Rome were in 1986, though lighter snowfalls have occasionally blanketed the city since, including in 2010. Since the capital is usually blessed with a temperate climate, heating in homes is only allowed by law for about 10 hours a day, to cut down on pollution.
The cold snap, with temperatures hovering around the freezing point, meant Romans were shivering in their homes, many with tile and marble floors.
Snow began falling in the late morning Friday, leaving a light dusting on trees and cars and forming slush on the streets in the center. In many of the neighborhoods, snowfall accumulated to about 4 centimeterw (1.5 inches).
As a precaution, Mayor Gianni Alemanno said late Thursday that classroom instruction would be canceled on Friday and Saturday, but added that school buildings would remain open so working parents could drop of their children if they had no other place to leave them.
On the steep streets in the Monteverde neighborhood near the ancient Janiculum Hill, several buses couldn't make it up. By midmorning, balconies resembled skating rinks as puddles from overnight rain froze over. Layers of snow covered the ripe fruit on orange trees oranges on Roman terraces.
Authorities appealed to Italians to stay off highways, as the cold snap was predicted to continue well into the next week.
Temperatures plunged as low as minus 22 Celsius (minus 7 Fahrenheit), in Trepalle, a village in the Italian Alps.
In the northern financial capital of Milan, a homeless man who had covered himself with a blanket and taken shelter under a bush, was found dead of exposure to the cold on Thursday, officials said.