Rare snow storm disrupts flights, shuts down schools in Rome

ROME - A rare snow storm in Rome on Monday disrupted transport, shut down schools and prompted the authorities to call in the army to help clear the streets.

Only one runway was operating at Rome's main airport, Fiumicino. The Italian capital's second airport, Ciampino, was closed overnight and workers were clearing a runway to allow it to reopen on Monday morning.

Italian aviation officials said Ryanair, which uses Ciampino as it Italian hub, had decided to cancel all flights to and from the airport. But they said most of Italy's other main airports were open despite delays to some flights.

It was the heaviest snowfall in Rome in six years and the largest for the end of February in decades. The city, which is not equipped to deal with snow emergencies due to their rarity, asked other areas to send in snow ploughs to help clear roads.

Schools were ordered closed in the Italian capital, where many people could not reach their places of work. Police asked residents to stay at home if possible.

Piazza Venezia, Rome's central square which is usually a cacophony of car horns and a tangle of traffic, was eerily empty, quiet and white as dawn broke.

In St. Peter's Square in the Vatican priests and seminarians threw snowballs at each other.