One million turn out for night-long festival in Rome
A million people flooded the streets of the Italian capital, despite torrential rain, for a night-long cultural festival.india Updated: Sep 27, 2005 12:36 IST
A million people flooded the streets of the Italian capital on Saturday, despite torrential rain, for a night-long cultural festival which saw museums open their doors for free, buses turned into mobile discos and squares become music venues.
Oscar-winning actor and director Roberto Benigni kicked off the "White Night" festivities at 8:00 pm (1800 GMT) and enthralled spectators with an animated recital of Dante Alighieri's poetry.
This year's fairytale and storytelling theme sprinkled enough magic over the wet night to entice Romans and 120,000 tourists to take part in the cultural marathon and sample some of the many free events, from piano lessons to haircuts in the street.
The overall number of festival-goers, estimated at one million by the mayor's office, was half of last year's turnout but officials put the drop down to the poor weather conditions.
"At a time when we are all concerned with terrorism, such a display of hope and trust is extremely powerful. The people didn't give in to rain and fear. The urge to come together was stronger," said Rome's mayor Walter Veltroni at dawn on Sunday, as he closed the festival.
Figures from the city's chamber of commerce and mayor's office revealed that 600,000 people used special public transport services provided overnight.
Some 4,000 police officers and security staff were mobilised to safeguard 500 venues across the capital.
The Rome event is modelled on the highly successful "Nuit Blanche" festival, organised for the first time in Paris in 2002. "Nuit Blanche" in French translates as "Sleepless Night".
Veltroni suggested 2006 could see a European "White Night" in several of the continent's capitals in August or September.