Rome's city council got the all-clear to introduce the restrictions after Italy's highest administrative court on Thursday rejected an appeal by coach hire unions and tour operators that sought to block it.
Mayor Virginia Raggi called it "an important decision not only for the protection of our archaeological and historic heritage, but also to combat air and noise pollution".
The area around the Colosseum is regularly closed to traffic. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP
The ruling means that from January 1st, the heart of Rome will become off-limits to the coaches that ferry hundreds of tourists every day between its densely packed attractions.
The council says it will add extra parking facilities outside the no-coach zone so that vehicles can be left outside. Coach operators, who under current regulations pay the equivalent of €6 per day for unlimited entry to the city centre, will see the fee rocket to €180 for one day's access to the city's outer limits.
There will be exemptions for school buses, coaches transporting disabled passengers and buses transferring guests to large hotels located within the city centre, though they will have to apply for special permits that will only be issued in limited numbers.
Raggi's administration has been pushing for the restrictions for the past year, in the face of opposition from the tourism and transport industry.
The European Tourism Association argued that the move would "inflict a body blow" to Rome's travel sector, warning of knock-on effects for shops, restaurants and hotels within the city centre.
But many of Rome's residents, fed up of sharing roads with coaches and pavements with tour groups – especially around hotspots like the Vatican and Colosseum – will welcome the restrictions.
As well as clogging traffic, coaches have been involved in a number of fatal accidents in central Rome. Last week a cyclist was killed in a collision with a coach, while in October a pedestrian died when a tour bus hit him as he stepped out onto a zebra crossing.
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Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP