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Rome prepares for the millennium.

Rome is getting ready for its most important appointment at the end of this millennium. The main celebrations in the city at the end of this century and the beginning of the twenty first will be dedicated to the Christian holy year: the Jubilee. The origin of the Jubilee dates back to the fourteenth century. It was on 22 February 1300 that Pope Bonifacio VIII proclaimed the first Jubilee. Pilgrims gathered together in Rome to visit the Basilica of the Apostles -- San Pietro, San Giovanni in Laterano, Santa Maria Maggiore and San Paolo -- to receive the indulgence requested in Bonifacio VIII's announcement. The same Bonifacio VIII understood the importance of cultivating such a tradition and he fixed the Jubilee celebration at every hundred years. By 1342 Pope Clemente V reduced the period between holy years to a half a century. Pope Martino V applied a further reduction, lowering the period to 33 years, the years of Christ's life. Finally in 1450 under Pope Nicolo V the period was reduced to 25 years and has remained so until now. So far 25 ordinary holy years, those with a fixed term, and 96 extraordinary holy years, decided by Popes for important anniversaries or events, have been celebrated. The importance of this event for the Catholic world has been clear since the first Jubilee when more than two million pilgrims visited Rome, at that time a city of no more than fifty thousand inhabitants. The importance of this 26th jubilee is determined by its coincidence with the end of the millennium. Pope John Paul II in his Lettera Apostolica of the Third Millennium, Adveniente, called this jubilee the `Great Jubilee of the Year 2000'. For all believers it will be an event of faith and Christian experience of profound importance, but the universal significance of its spiritual message, and its occurrence at the end of the millennium, will also involve the whole of mankind.

The year 2000 will see millions of pilgrims from all over the world visiting Rome. Preparing for the Jubilee is a great challenge for Rome. The city must take care of its exceptional historical and artistic heritage and make up for the inadequacy of existing urban services that has been caused by years of delayed decision making. Nonetheless, in the last few years Rome has begun an overall urban renewal effort. The 1990 World Championship highlighted the shortcomings of Rome and its poor position in comparison to many other European capitals such as London or Paris. Rome is visited every year by a million tourists and every year represents a test of the improvements that the city needs in order to improve efficiency. The Jubilee will be so significant that even the final of the World Cup played in Rome in 1990 will be considered a minor event. In fact the Jubilee will be different from any other comparable event which has taken place in the city.

In preparing for the Jubilee, Rome and Italy should not repeat the same mistakes they made in the past when organising similar events. In Italy the organisation of such events led to initiatives designed for the needs that the hosting cities have in the short term, but not considering what is necessary in the medium and long term. So, often no structural work has been accomplished. The organisation of the Jubilee brings a new approach. The aim of the public administration in promoting this event is to undertake important works in the public interest and attempt also to remove those problems that make the everyday life of residents and visitors, particularly in Rome, difficult.

Rome is one of the most important cities of art in the world. The lack of facilities and public services causes great difficulties for the city administration. Improving the efficiency and quality of the whole metropolitan system, with particular attention to the suburbs, is one of the main goals of the overall plan for the Jubilee. The technical organisation of the Jubilee requires a series of target areas: welcoming pilgrims, restoring the historical and monumental heritage of the city and providing environmental revitalisation. The moving of many ministries and administrative offices out of the city will finally be realised eliminating one of the main causes of traffic. In order to face all these issues, Rome City Council has established an organisation specifically for the Jubilee: l'Agenzia per la preparazione del Giubileo (Agency for the preparation of the Jubilee) of which the state, the local administrations -- regional and provincial -- and the Chamber of Commerce are members. The agency is following the directives of political bodies. It is in charge of the setting up of the overall plan of action, quality control on services and co-ordination of tourist flow and information to the public. However, in order to achieve the result proposed, the main commitment of the administrators is to deal successfully with bureaucracy, that can sometimes be a real problem in Italy, causing long delays.

The other aim is to find agreement on the main actions among all political forces. Finally it is necessary for a co-ordination of all the sectors of public life involved in the preparation of the Jubilee. Co-ordinating public functions and private initiatives is a complex task in Italy in a period such as this, a period of difficult and delicate change. Planning and co-ordinating the Jubilee requires that political decisions be taken jointly and the entire project has to meet the agreement of all political forces. This universal event for the Church and believers cannot be used as an opportunity for economic speculation or for senseless political opposition. The amount of work that has to be done is daunting, so that any delay that is not strictly technical will have serious consequences on the entire organisation.

There are important restoration works that have to be completed by November 1999. The Jubilee is in fact an incentive to complete the restoration of several important places: Piazza Augusto Imperatore, Ponte Sisto and the original entrance level of the Pantheon. In March the restoration of the front of San Pietro's Basilica began and will be completed by the end of 1999. Renewing the look of the city is extremely important, but improving its efficiency is an even more delicate issue. This is the challenge: offering the pilgrims of the Jubilee at the end of this millennium and to the visitors of Rome of the third millennium the quality they can find in the other main European cities. The construction of a four kilometres tube line, `C' or `Jubilee Line', is part of this effort. The third line will be permanent in Rome as will be the modernisation of a few railway stations, for example St Peter's railway station.

In the city, public transportation will be crucial, the adoption of high frequency lines using electric buses and connecting the main pilgrimage destinations will play a significant role. All these commitments and interventions that can be considered structural will contribute to make the Jubilee a well organised event, but will also improve the image of Rome in Europe. Moreover, in the year 2000 Rome will have, among European cities, one of the most extensive systems of protecting green space and the environment. By the year 2000 Villa Pamphili, Villa Carpegna, Villa Borghese and Villa Ada will be completely restored. In addition to these important green urban areas Rome will have an extensive system of suburban Parks.

Another delicate aspect for the coming years is the reorganisation and opening of the main museums in Rome. Everybody who has visited Rome at least once experienced the disappointment of facing museums closed down for the most strange and sometimes extravagant reasons. These last few years have seen a significant commitment by the city council to improve the presentation of Rome's culture to the visitors. In the future the restoration of the Capitoline Museum will be completed and the Museo Nazionale Romano, where one of the finest collections of classical sculpture in the world will be opened. Moreover, the extension of the National Gallery of Ancient Art at the Barberini Palace may be carried out by the year 2000. Finally, Palazzo Braschi, currently closed for restoration, will also be opened by 2000.

Besides the structural intervention a few important initiatives are going to be arranged to help the pilgrims and visitors to receive all the information they need and how to access the main interesting places. A `pilgrim card' will be issued to be purchased from travel agencies and tour operators, along with the usual package tour (travel and accommodation) as an `entrance ticket to the city'. This card will permit access to, a series of reception, transport and banking services. The Information will be provided by several institutions: the Jubilee Information Centre; the Magneti, information points located in the most important zones of the city; multimedia areas situated in the main tourist destinations, hotels, railway stations and airports; and a telephone information service will be provided in the most common foreign languages.

It is actually possible walking through Rome these days to see the beginning of several works from Saint Peter's Basilica, the Pantheon Square to the Villa Borghese. This activity is the main evidence of the commitment by the city council to provide the best results for the Jubilee. By the year 2000 most of these works will be completed, many will be near to completion and a few will be at an early stage of restoration. Rome will be able to offer its usual classical attractions with several improved structures. The Jubilee is a challenge, an important one, but so far Rome has shown evidence that it can deal with it and so aspire, in the long term, to be the host city of future events beginning with the Olympic Games in 2004.
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Author:Tripodi, Paolo
Publication:Contemporary Review
Date:May 1, 1997
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