Part of Nero's palace collapses in Rome

Tue Mar 30, 2010 10:30am EDT
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ROME (Reuters) - Part of the ceiling of ancient Roman emperor Nero's Golden Palace collapsed on Tuesday, rekindling fears that site is unsafe for the hordes of tourists who come to see it every year.

Nero's Golden Palace or Domus Aurea, which lies on a hill overlooking the Colosseum, was built in the first century A.D. and has been plagued with structural problems since it was opened to the public in 1999.

Workers were undertaking repairs when part of the roof collapsed, causing a section of the garden above it to fall into the palace over an area of some 100 sq meters, officials said. No injuries were reported.

Nero built his palace after the great fire of Rome in 64 A.D. as a party villa rather than a residence. Covered in part by gold leaf, it also had walls decorated with semi precious stones and frescoes.

Experts at the site said the part of the roof that collapsed was a segment constructed after Nero's palace, known as Trajan's gallery, and not normally open to the public. Emperor Trajan ruled from 98-117 A.D. and built the Trajan baths on top of the Domus Aurea.

However, Tuesday's collapse is set to rekindle the debate about the sorry state of Rome's eroding archaeological sites.

The Domus Aurea, which attracts on average 1,000 visitors a day, was closed in late 2005 for more than a year after the culture ministry said it could not guarantee the safety of visitors and staff.

(Reporting by Cristiano Corvino, writing by Silvia Aloisi; Editing by Steve Addison)

<p>Firefighters work on a collapsed part of the ancient Domus Aurea site, Roman emperor Nero's Golden Palace, in front of the Colosseum in Rome March 30, 2010. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi</p>