At this year’s Mipim, the international property event held in Cannes, the mayor of Rome, Virginia Raggi, gave a presentation on her city and its urban regeneration projects. Ms Raggi tells fDi of the importance of private investors, the need for repurposing derelict spaces and the post-pandemic push for a better integrated city.

Q: During your keynote speech, you stressed that Rome needed to “drive the change”. What do you mean by this and how will do you do it?

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A: The pandemic has completely changed the world and that we have to be the protagonists of social change from an economic and development point of view.

We can do this by rethinking the development models we have had up until now, and we can do this by understanding the needs of the people. In Rome, we have so many empty spaces that we have repurposed with an urban regeneration plan.

The pandemic has taught us that we cannot separate out certain aspects of city life, but we have to mix them. We need to create a mix where there’s business, leisure, shopping, care homes and student accommodation — everything mixed together. So coming to Mipim and presenting what is already happening and what can happen in the future allows us to show that Rome can be a laboratory of experimentation and regeneration.

Q: Which project are you most excited about?

A: All of our projects are part of a bigger project: Roma Expo 2030.

My goal is to bring an expo to Rome that will regenerate the city — an expo, therefore, that is in the city and not in an exhibition centre outside the city. That doesn’t interest me. What interests me is experimentation and change, and so Expo 2030 is what I’m excited about. 

Q: Which sectors are being targeted to attract foreign investment into Rome?

A: Certainly, with urban regeneration as our main focus we’re attracting real estate investors. We have had many investors and investment funds that started work on luxury hotels in recent years. Then, alongside businesses who have established their headquarters here, we also have data centres coming to Rome to establish their hubs. All this shows me that there is interest in the city. 

Q: Ahead of the mayoral elections in October, how would you characterise your first term?

A: My first term was one of reconstruction. I came to take charge of a city on its knees after the investigation into Mafia Capitale, a city without any money, without public tenders and without public services. It was completely static.

In these five years, we have basically pulled up a foundering administration by its bootstraps. It was as if we took a car that had no wheels, no steering wheel and slowly slowly rebuilt it and put it back on the road. If I’m elected for a second term, this car can become a Ferrari. 

Q: You were elected as the city’s first woman mayor in 2016. Do you think that women leaders have qualities that their male counterparts lack?

A: Perhaps we are still too few to start a statistical discussion on the topic, and to understand which characteristics women have versus men. But, in my opinion, it is important that women reach such positions of leadership because they give a different perspective. And, also, because it’s right.

Q: Aside from the urban regeneration projects, what are the challenges that remain for the ‘Eternal City’?

A: Principally, there is the theme of urban mobility. Today, only 37% of people rely on public transport, and the rest use private transport. This isn’t acceptable. In the next 10 years, we plan on reversing this proportion by building 39km of metro lines, 67km of tram lines and more than 290km of bicycle lanes. We are trying to transform Rome’s mobility into one that is more sustainable, more integrated and possibly electric. But reducing the use of private cars is a big challenge.