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Rome city profile | city data

“With increasing diversity and increasing foreigners in the city, there is an opportunity to increase and strengthen Rome’s international offer.” Giovanna Marinelli, Head of Culture, Rome

City data: Key facts

  • Geographical area: 5,363 sq. km
  • Total population: 4,342,046
  • Percentage of total national population living in the city: 7.1%
  • GDP (PPP) million: $163,005

Rome appears to have an almost limitless appeal to tourists, and it is in the visitor economy that most of the opportunities for the city exist. Most existing tourism activity is concentrated in the city centre, leaving much of potential value relatively undiscovered. The city’s campaign to host the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games provides an opportunity in itself to re-present the city to the world, exploiting and developing its already powerful brand. The growing and diverse population can only help in that, acting as ambassadors for the city.

“Rome has always been opening and welcoming – it is rooted in our heritage. However, managing the current diversity could be a challenge.” (Giovanna Marinelli)

The Eternal City is changing. As one official put it: “Rome is not as it used to be.” It is becoming a multi-ethnic and multicultural city and, unlike many other world cities, this is a relatively recent development that creates tensions that will need to find ways of addressing.

Other familiar challenges range from severely constrained transport systems – limited by the city’s historic fabric – to social polarisation. As many other parts of Italy, and indeed other world cities, Rome is experiencing greater social inequality, with divisions between the wealthy and the rest. But this fragmentation takes on a specifically geographical dimension, with many suburban areas of the city being abandoned, poorly managed, or simply overlooked.

That geographical fragmentation has other, economic implications, putting an unnecessary cap on the potential of tourism. Most visitors only visit the city centre, and the opportunity to exploit the value of the whole city is being missed: “there are areas like Ostia Antica which are beautiful and nobody visits.” (Giovanna Marinelli)

Rome is uncertain of how it wishes to be seen, by the world and by itself. As with its inadequate transport system, Rome is hostage of its great history. The city’s image is strongly linked to the past, not simply that of Imperial Rome, nor that of Renaissance Rome, but also the Rome of Fellini and La Dolce Vita. But Rome is a city in flux and that powerful heritage no longer adequately expresses its identity. In trying to make a future for itself, the city is striving to decide what it is today.

“The city should be focusing on contemporary art, and not just heritage. Or combine both, bringing heritage alive through contemporary art.” (Monique Veaute, Director, Foundation Romaeuropa)

Combining the new and the old, the City is finding that culture can help to foster community cohesion: supporting exhibitions and performances that celebrate non-traditional forms and new or excluded communities can help bring those communities together, rebuilding the relationships between all parts of the city.

“our aim is not just developing cultural infrastructure but creating an exchange between people – bringing people from the city centre to those areas…excellence should not only be concentrated to one area.” (Giovanna Marinelli)

Cultural policy in Rome is therefore increasingly aimed at breaking down the divisions between the centre and the whole, between the past and the present, both to make the most of the economic opportunities and to improve the social cohesion of a changing city. A new artwork, a 550 metre mural by William Kentridge, runs along the banks of the Tevere river, reconnecting the city with this forgotten water way; a map of street art, including more than 330 works in 13 of Rome’s 15 boroughs, has been published, offering an alternative cultural experience, promoting lesser known areas of Rome and contributing to the active involvement of citizens.

Rome’s archaeological heritage and history is rightly world renowned, but the future success of the city lies in its ability to adapt and change. So much more than an open air museum – Rome is a modern city reinventing itself through art and culture, as it has done for centuries.

Perspectives on the city taken from World Cities Culture Report 2015

Interviewees: Giovanna Marinelli, Head of Culture, City of Rome; Monique Veaute, Director, Foundation Romaeuropa; Lucio Argano, Managing Director, Rome Film Festival and Professor of Cultural Management, Catholic University of the Sacred Heart Milan; Anna Maria Bianchi, Director, Laboratorio Carteinregola (civil society organisation); Lorenzo Tagliavanti, President, Chamber of Commerce