- Since mid-2016, the City of Rome has had a new administration, committed to making ‘game changing’ alterations to how culture operates.
- The OperaCamion project takes opera productions on a truck to outlying districts with less access to culture.
- Teatro Valle, Rome’s oldest modern theatre, has undergone initial restoration work by the City of Rome, and will be completed in a three year programme.
City data: Key facts
- Geographical area: 1,287 sq. km
- Total population: 2,876,614
- GDP (PPP) million: $136,130
Rome’s history stretches back for millennia, with its foundation mythically dated to the 8th century BCE. It became the heart of a vast Empire of the ancient world and then a centre of Western Christian spiritual and political power. Its significance over such a long period and its remarkable heritage, from the classical world to the Renaissance, continues to draw vast numbers of visitors and pilgrims to the city.
Today, Rome is unusual among world cities in comprising areas of urbanisation with parts that remain not just green, but agricultural. The city is dispersed over a larger geographical area than most European cities, with a low population density. This is a particular challenge for all of the City’s work. Since the turn of the century, there has been a trend for younger families to move to the suburbs for economic reasons, however, there is less cultural activity in these areas, and some places even lack piazzas, the indispensable public common space shaping Roman life. In the decade from 2001 there was a 44% rise in immigration. New residents are spread evenly across every area of the city, without becoming ghettoised in any particular area. However, the challenge is to move beyond simple coexistence to cultural programming which includes these groups.
Since mid-2016, the City of Rome has had a new administration, committed to making ‘game changing’ alterations to how culture operates. At the heart of this is the need for a cultural policy that does not squeeze out citizens in its pursuit of the lucrative tourist trade, which promotes modern cultural brilliance including science, literature and live performance alongside the compelling palaces, art collections and historic sites. In particular, Rome hosts approximately half of Italy’s scientific research, but until recently this work has been largely invisible to and uncelebrated by the public. For this reason, science is the topic of one of three new cultural seasons initiated by the City. New policy also seeks to rebalance the geographic distribution of cultural assets which are concentrated at the centre of the city. Initially, the City is encouraging each institution to move beyond its individual mission boundaries and work as a network. With help from local universities and international networks, the City is in the early stages of creating an observatory to measure cultural participation and its impact on citizens’ trust and wellbeing. Institutions are also working more closely with communities to make programmes for residents of Rome, with an emphasis on work in neighbourhoods across the city. The OperaCamion project, which takes opera productions on a truck to outlying districts, is one example of this idea in practice. The city’s 39 libraries are unique in being decentralised across all of Rome’s neighbourhoods. Their role is now being expanded to become cultural centres for a wider range of art forms. Rome has also issued a MIC card, giving residents access to all 21 civic museums for a nominal fee. This again explicitly welcomes local people into spaces which previously seemed elite, expensive and primarily aimed at visitors to the city centre.
The City recognises that for its transformative ideas to work it will have to simplify a proliferation of laws and regulations, as well as deal with the fragmentation of local, regional and national resources so that government can aid, rather than paralyse, cultural production. Tourism from new regions, including Asia, is only expected to grow: to make this sustainable, visitors must be encouraged to explore beyond the centre.