Pickpockets operate in the Sistine chapel Pickpockets operate in the Sistine chapel.

Tour guides at the world-famous Sistine Chapel in Rome have threatened to call a strike in protest at an explosion of petty crime — especially pickpocketing — in the venue.

A Facebook page run by the guides, who also take visitors through the nearby Vatican museums, say the 15th century chapel is overrun by tourists each day, turning the chapel into a magnet for thieves.

The pickpockets mainly strike as visitors peer skywards to see Michelangelo's ceiling, and frescoes by Botticelli and Pinturicchio, taking their attention away from bags and purses.

 

Thieves also target nearby St. Peter's Square and St. Peter's Basilica.

"Petty crime, a lack of decorum, neglect ... our job is becoming harder by the day," said one guide on the Facebook forum. "The only thing to do is to organise [sic] ourselves and do something on our own initiative – no one will solve our problems for us."

A total of 27,000 people visit the Sistine Chapel and Vatican museums.

Last month, guides at the Louvre museum in Paris threatened a similar strike over pickpockets.

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