In view of the upcoming “Holy Year” 2000and the expected birth of the single currency area of the European Union, Italian's politician, urban planners, cultural authorities, felt impelled to take immediate action in order to modernize Rome.
Both these factors represented a strong urge to improve the accommodation capability and renovate the public face of the city mostly in terms of his infrastructure and the restoration of his most representative monuments.
This effort can be resumed in the “Operation Rome 2000” formula, that in fact had very positive effects and directed in the late nineties to the municipality of Rome at least 7 billions of Euros of investments.
A completely new cultural spot was commissioned to the acclaimed italian architect Renzo Piano, who projected the “Parco della Musica”, a magnificent concert hall and congress center in the northern district of Parioli-Flaminio, opened since the end of 2001.
Here, three "harmonic chambers" are immersed in a large park with trees and are placed at a right angle around a large theatrical cavea giving to the existing landscape’s orography a complete organic interconnection.
Actually the Auditorium is meant to act as a sophisticated source of attraction for extra-urban use, while, at the same time, maintaining all the functions needed for everyday local use. This is guaranteed both by the way the three buildings have been designed and by the way the Auditorium’s activities have been distributed.
Also a project for the building devoted to the new national centre for the exhibition of contemporary art and architecture, MAXXI, was selected following a two-part international competition launched by the Ministry for Cultural Heritage in 1998. The winning design was that of the Anglo-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid, who integrated a urban fabric with an innovative architecture, successfully interpreting the potential of the new institution and equipping it with an extraordinary sequence of public spaces.
The famous “Ara Pacis”, the most precious monument of the Augustan age from dust, has been restored to the public after a long period of inaccessibility, while vital works were carried out to create conditions suitable for conserving the monument over a long period. A new museum space was designed around it by the famous American architect Richard Meier who focused his ideas on the contrast of light and shade. The first two parts of the building, particularly, are governed by this concept: visitors pass through the access gallery, an area in shadow, to reach the central pavilion which holds the Ara Pacis in full natural light filtered through 500 square meters of crystal panels.
In other hand, a new program “Roma Verde” (Green Rome)was promoted to improve and extend the city's green lungs. Cycling tracks and paths for joggers have been laid out, park benches installed, and even rick-shaw drivers are now offering their service in all the historical center.
Moreover, the “Cento Piazze” program revived one hundred public squares with a fresh look and more comfortable installations that transformed them into pleasant meeting places greatly improving the quality of city life.
The public transport system, long despised, now has new underground stations and the trains run on time. Also roman's visitors can now take advantage of a new fleet of very comfortable trams and buses.
Altogether, ancient Rome has profited greatly from the “Operation Rome 2000”: the summer opera concerts returned to the Baths of Caracalla, a unique and magnificent scenario to hear music on a warm summer night under the open sky.
A new archeological spot was inaugurated in Rome's ancient harbor in Ostia: the docks built by Emperor Claudius and Emperor Hadrian have been excavated and now stand as an archeological park, the “Porto dei Porti”, for the public to see.
The Palazzo Farnese, home of the French embassy, for instance, underwent elaborate renovation, and from 1999 was open to the general public on certain days. The gardens and the Villa Medici near the Spanish Steps, the home of the French Academy, the oldest art academy in Rome, have held exhibitions regularly since then, opening doors that were once firmly closed.