Romaland?

Almost garnering no attention in the American press is the debate going on in Italy, specifically Rome, about whether a tourist theme park, Romaland, should be built outside Rome’s center but within easy reach of public transportation and the city – a recreation of the Appian Way and other symbols of ancient Rome. Think of it like a Plimouth Plantation, Colonial Williamsburg, Sturbridge Village, except with a Roman theme.

A recent editorial on La Repubblica‘s web site (it’s in Italian, but if you want to read it, click here) picked out various viewpoints from users of the site and posted them in the editorial, espousing two viewpoints. Those that were in favor of the park and those that were against it. It’s easy to see how the lure of ancient Rome might be for many foreign tourists, eager to be taken back in time to a mock setup of Ancient Rome, complete with chariots, Roman soldiers and Caesars. However, with the plethora of attractions, museums, ancient sites and so forth already in Rome, wouldn’t such money be better spent on maintaining Italy’s cultural past rather than promoting (and exploiting) an artificial version of Rome’s past?

Other users praised the mayor of Rome for his efforts to bring back tourism to the city. One user noted that here in the USA, this is quote common (Plimouth Plantation, Colonial Williamsburg, among others). Another user rightly argued that Rome is littered with “free” tourist sites – Roman Forum, many churches and museums – with the tab picked up by the citizens of Rome and Italy. Why not have a tourist attraction that would finally pay for itself?

A poll conducted by the Comune di Roma which claimed that 72% of the almost 5000 respondents were “di favorevoli e potenzialmente interessati” — in other words, they were favorable or showed potential interest in the “theme park”. However, respondents from the United States had the fewest number of responses in the “favorable” categories, along with the Japanese and Germans who took the poll (versus the Russians, Chinese and Spanish, who signaled more favorable interest in the project). Considering the small number of respondents when compared to the total number of visitors to Rome each year, the reliability of the poll might be called into question. And why only were tourists asked? Shouldn’t the residents of Rome and those residents who have to live near this park not take part in such a poll?

The arguments on both sides of the spectrum are compelling, and I don’t think that any one solution is right or wrong. What do you think about such a park? Would an ancient Rome type theme park a la Disney work for the city of Rome? Would it help or hurt? Leave a comment and voice your opinion and take our poll located in the upper left hand side of our site!

Do you think that Rome needs a theme park-like attraction?

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