Saturday 3 December 2016

The fall of Rome: debt-ridden ancient city 'on verge of collapse'

Nick Squires in Rome

Published 16/07/2015 | 02:30

People wait at Fiumicino international airport in Rome. One of the 10 biggest cities in Europe, with a population of 2.8 million, Rome boasts some of the most spectacular squares, fountains, museums and churches in the world. Photo: Reuters
People wait at Fiumicino international airport in Rome. One of the 10 biggest cities in Europe, with a population of 2.8 million, Rome boasts some of the most spectacular squares, fountains, museums and churches in the world. Photo: Reuters

It may boast the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps and the glories that were ancient Rome, but the city is now in chronic decline, its business leaders and residents have warned.

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The Eternal City has an administration engulfed in corruption scandals and debt, roads scarred by potholes, its main airport partially closed and a growing immigration crisis.

Drivers on the metro system are protesting over pay and conditions, hundreds of flights into Fiumicino airport have been cancelled due to a fire in May, and temperatures have soared this week to over 100F (38C), making daily life even more hellish.

"Rome is on the verge of collapse," said Giancarlo Cremonesi, the president of the Rome Chamber of Commerce. "It is unacceptable that a major city which calls itself developed can find itself in such a state of decay."

A survey by the European Commission two years ago placed Rome last out of 28 EU capitals in a ranking for the efficiency of city services. In an index of quality of life, the capital came second to last, with Athens at the bottom.

Rome's Renaissance churches, cobbled streets and vibrant piazzas still draw tourists, but beyond the historic centre, the city is a mess and life is a struggle for locals.

The effects of Italy's longest recession since the Second World War can be seen with increasing numbers of homeless people and youth unemployment standing at over 40pc.

Broken-down motor scooters and bicycles are dumped on pavements, kerbs are overgrown with grass and shrubs, and there is litter everywhere.

"It has got a lot worse in the last few years," said Costanza Cagni, who has lived in the city since 2000. "Everybody moans but nobody offers any solutions."

An investigation earlier this year found that corrupt local politicians had colluded with criminal gangs to cream off money from a range of services, from rubbish collection to the management of refugee facilities.

The scandal comes amid growing evidence that the city is being infiltrated by organised crime groups. Ignazio Marino, the mayor of Rome, acknowledged that much of the city's public administration was "substantially rotten".

In an open letter this week to 'Corriere della Sera' newspaper he said he had come up against a "cancer" of favouritism and resistance to change. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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