ROME – Romans bewildered by their city’s first big snowfall in 26 years used government-issued shovels to clear sidewalks, and kitchen utensils to clear windshields Saturday.

The snow — up to 8 inches deep in some neighborhoods — made buses and taxis scarce. It also shut down tourist sites, including the Colosseum, where the tiers that once held cheering spectators for gladiator fights were hidden by snow.

Snow blanketed the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica and crowned the ancient arches in the Roman Forum, but its weight toppled trees, sending some of them crashing onto empty parked cars. Saturday’s storm, coming a day after a light snowfall, combined for the biggest accumulations since 1986, and left many motorists stranded for hours on city’s streets.

National Civil Protection agency volunteers handed out 4,000 shovels in several main piazzas to Romans trying to clear their streets of snow and slush before a predicted nighttime freeze.

Much of Europe is coping with what has been the worst winter in decades. Bosnia’s government declared a state of emergency in its capital Saturday after Sarajevo was paralyzed by snow, and hundreds of people remained trapped in their homes and vehicles throughout the country.


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