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Rome's new theme park

The Pantheon, St Peter’s Basilica and Square, the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps…Rome boasts an infinite number of attractions that highlight its centuries of unrivalled history, tradition and culture.

It remains one of the major attractions of buying property for sale in Rome and Lazio.

Admittedly, if you’ve got children in tow it may prove difficult to get them to appreciate the worth of the timeless treasures crammed into Italy’s capital. Until now.

City, business and tourism bosses have described 2008 as one of the worst for tourism to Rome, a gloomy outlook only confirmed by figures showing a five per cent drop in visitor numbers to the Eternal City.

To try to reverse the trend, they are considering a new a 1,200-acre theme park illustrating life in Rome 2,000 years ago.

The complex would draw inspiration from EuroDisney near Paris and have rides recreating the atmosphere of Rome of old, with Colosseum scenes, gladiator battles and the assassination of Julius Caesar.

Deputy Mayor Mauro Cutrufo hopes to have it up and running by 2012 and believes it would bring an extra three million visitors to Rome each year.

If market research reveals support for the plan, local politicians could give the project the go-ahead as early as September 2008, he believes.

The fall in tourism has seen thousands of staff reliant on the trade lose their jobs, such as hotel workers, barmen and restaurant waiters.

The global slowdown and the strength of the euro are being blamed, factors that have also led to a levelling of prices for property for sale in Rome and Lazio.

Understandably any scheme to reverse this downward trend in tourism will be welcomed by the business community.

Italian hoteliers’ supremo Giuseppe Roscioli is all for it, although he has insisted it should go hand in hand with other steps such as better local airports.

But the proposal – the brainchild of Rome’s centre-right administration – risks turning into a political football. The Lazio area is still run by the centre-left and regional tourism chief Claudio Mancini is none too impressed.

He argues that the whole project would ruin Rome’s status as one of the world’s great cultural centres and declared defiantly: “No to Americanisation!”

He and fellow opponents are pinning their hopes on its failing to gain planning approval. For one, there is the vast size of the land it will require. For another, no site has yet been earmarked for it.

There is also the small matter of the €800million in private investment Rome is trying to attract to get it off the ground.

But we’ve been here before. Not so long ago there were plans to construct a similar theme park from the five-acre set of the TV drama Rome. However, a blaze at the Cinecitta film studios saw that idea go up in smoke.

Before that, there were suggestions for another giant ancient Roman theme park near Orvieto, Umbria. It’s projected completion date? 2000. We know Rome wasn’t built in a day, but even so…

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