Rome, the capital of Italy, is one of the world's oldest cities as well as one of the chief centres of European culture. With the enclave of the Vatican City within its territory, Rome is also the center of Roman Catholicism.
The city was founded during the eight century BC on an important trade route between the Etruscans to the north and the Greek colonies to the south. (Legend has it that originally it was established by the twins, Romus and Romulus, who were raised by a wolf). As the centre of a massive Roman Empire, Rome was already a large city by the second century A.D. At its peak in the 3rd century, Rome had a population of 2 million! Its fortuned fluctuated with the times and its popualtion dropped in the Middle Ages until the renaissance ushered in a new era of growth.
The city was chosen as the capital after the unification of Italy in 1870. Rome has remained the political, administrative and cultural center of Italy.
The major growth of Rome took place during the century following reunification when the city became, in many ways, the capital of Europe. Its population of 213,633 in 1871 had reached 2.9 million in 1995.
Like other large cities, the inner city deteriorated somewhat but most city residents who fled this deterioration did not completely sever their ties with Rome. Rather, they commuted to their jobs and took advantage of the many cultural and social opportunities offered by the city.
The economy of Rome is characterized by the absence of heavy industry, but commercial activities especially banking and the development of tourism are extremely important to its economy. Universities, national radio and television and the movie industry in Rome are also important parts of the economy. A phenomenon particular to Rome is the widespread incidence of double employment, people working two jobs.
Traffic congestion and air pollution are major problems. The vibrations from traffic and the pollution are endangering the city's fragile historic sites. The level of carbon monoxide in the air has reached dangerous levels and on occasion has led to emergency situations.
Despite these problems, population has not been a serious problem in Rome. Many areas, in fact, have low density. The problem has been with expansion of the city to unpredictable parts of the surrounding areas. This has meant that the infrastructure and services for people moving into those areas has been inadequate.