ROME – In a half-hour audience with Pope Francis on Friday, Rome’s Mayor Roberto Gualtieri reported that more than 1,400 public work sites are open across the city, the lion’s share in preparation for the Jubilee Year of 2025, and vowed that the city will be “not only cleaner and more presentable, but also more supportive and inclusive” during the year-long Catholic festival.
Gualtieri presented Pope Francis with a book illustrating 184 principal projects for the Holy Year which, he said, collectively will “change the face” of the city.
“We’re working without pause,” Gaultieri said, acknowledging that preparations for the Jubilee Year got off to a slow start because of the collapse of the former government of Prime Minister Mario Draghi in late 2022, which, he said, caused a 7-8 month delay in approving the necessary legislation.
Nevertheless, Gualtieri said, the city is scrambling to catch up, including authorizing overtime for crews to work on some projects overnight, from 9:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m., in part to speed up completion and in part to ease traffic burdens created by the work sites.
Gualtieri acknowledged that the various constructions projects across town are creating no shortage of disruptions, adding to the city’s already notoriously congested traffic situation, but said that “without work sites, there’s no future for the city.”
In terms of specific improvements anticipated for the Jubilee Year, Gualtieri cited five projects in particular in the vicinity of the Vatican.
- The transformation of the Piazza Pia, located at the end of the Via della Conciliazione, into a large pedestrian area connecting the Vatican with the nearby Castel Sant’Angelo and with a view of the Tiber River, which Gualtieri said will be a “jewel.”
- Conversion of the Piazza Risorgimento, roughly ten minutes by foot to the north of St. Peter’s Square, into a pedestrian zone on the Vatican side with underground parking spaces and an underground passage to lead pilgrims to the Vatican.
- The Via Ottaviano, a street that runs from St. Peter’s Square to the closest metro station, will become a pedestrian zone, with a widened pavement surface used exclusively by trams and emergency vehicles, and a new lighting system will be installed along the route.
- Enhancement of a path called the Passeggiata del Gelsomino which presently leads from the Stazione San Pietro, the closest train stop to the Vatican, across the Via di Porta Cavalleggeri in order to arrive at the entrance to St. Peter’s Square by the “Holy Office,” meaning the headquarters of the Dictastery for the Doctrine of the Faith.
- Cleaning and expansion of an underground passageway that presently connects the Via Gregorio VII, the main artery that leads towards the Vatican from the west of Rome, to St. Peter’s Square.
In each case, Gualtieri vowed, the result will be “a qualitative leap in terms of beautification and use of the area.”
In addition, Gualtieri also sketched improvements in other areas of urban life he anticipates being in place by 2025, including city-wide 5G internet coverage, as well as enhancements in public transportation such as the addition of 400 new buses and 120 new electric trams. Gualtieri also promised improvements in ancillary services, noting that in 2021, an estimated 25 percent of the escalators in the city’s metro system didn’t work, a share now believed to be at ten percent, and which he said will be at five percent when the holy year opens.
“In the Te Deum, Pope Francis invited all citizens to work, each in their own area, so that Rome can be a sign of hope for those who live there and for those who visit it,” Gualtieri said, citing the pontiff’s year-end address on Dec. 31.
“We as an administration certainly have the main responsibility, but I hope that all Romans will do their part in a shared civic spirit,” Gualtieri said. “I am very confident in Rome’s enormous potential.”
The total cost of the various urban enchancements projected for the 2025 Jubilee is estimated at somewhere between $2.5 billion and $4 billion, outlays which national and city officials expect to offset with increased hotel, restaurant and commerical income from an expected 35 million visitors during the course of the year.