Rome’s Future Is a Walk Through Its Past

Conscious of the weight of its illustrious history, Rome has managed to preserve an impressive number of archaeological monuments in its city center. The Colosseum, the Circus Maximus and the Roman Forum and Imperial Fora are just a few of the sites clustered in the city’s heart.

As Rome, which will celebrate its 2,777th birthday on April 21, moves toward its third millennium, city leaders are promoting a new vision of this area as a giant, pedestrian-friendly public space that supporters say will promote Rome’s ancient past.

“Italy is working to make the most of what is arguably the most important concentration of history, archaeology, art and nature in the world,” Rome’s mayor, Roberto Gualtieri, said on Tuesday at a news conference announcing that Labics, a Rome-based architectural and urban planning practice, had won a competition to revamp the area.

Normally, the area is also crawling with tourists and those who cater to them, including tour guides, street vendors and street artists. Some streets in the area are already closed to traffic besides buses and cabs, but others are busy thoroughfares that link various neighborhoods with the downtown or with the road that winds alongside the Tiber River.

Some critics say the plan could turn the center of Rome into an open-air Disneyland.

When the project was first announced last year, Mario Ajello, a journalist, wrote in Il Messaggero, a daily newspaper in Rome, that it was tailored to those who visited Rome for a few hours or days, not those who lived and worked there, and that it would transform the downtown into “an amusement park for tourists.” City hall had not sufficiently considered that removing traffic from that area of the city center would only shift congestion to adjacent neighborhoods, he added.

Gennaro Sangiuliano, Italy’s culture minister, left, and Mayor Roberto Gualtieri of Rome unveiling the new downtown project in Rome on Tuesday.Credit…Alessandra Tarantino/Associated Press
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