Engineering Rome

Subway System in Rome

by Aivy Nguyen

All roads lead to Rome. As the saying goes, it should come as no surprise that there are nearly 2.8 million inhabitants living in the capital city of Italy today. Extending further out, the entire Roman metropolitan area is home to over 4 million people. [1] Rome like any other city -large or small- needs methods of transportation to get from one place to another. The movement of people and goods around the city is essential for the health and livelihood of the city. Whether it is transit to work, school, or the grocery store, the movement of people is the harmony of a city (see Figure 1 for aesthetically pleasing view of Rome).

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Figure 1: The view of central Rome from Gianicolo in Trastevere.

In Rome, the idea of transportation and movement dates back to ancient times. Some of the cobbled roads of Ancient Rome are still intact and used today. Throughout the years, the means of transportation have drastically improved. Today, locals and tourists alike have a plethora of transportation options to choose from. From private cars to taxis to a metro bus, the options are abundant. While there are many options, some choices are more economical and efficient than others. A popular pick for local Romans and tourists is the subway system.

1. History

Rome is referred to as “The Eternal City” due to its long, rich history that dates back to its founding in 752 BC [1]. Throughout the following two and a half thousands plus years of history after its start, Rome has had several defining periods.

Figure 2: A part of the Appian Way, one of the oldest roads in Rome.

The first era was the Kingdom of Rome. This was the time when Rome was ruled by a monarchy. During this time, there was only settlement on and around the Palatine Hill and along the east bank of the Tiber River. Several major building projects such as the Cloaca Maxima and the Servian Wall were completed under the rule of the Kingdom. [2] The monarch was overthrown sometime around 500 BC. With the fall of the Kingdom, the Roman Republic was born. Democracy ruled the republic. There were two consuls, who were elected annually by the citizens and senate, who with advice from the senate decided on the laws and regulations for the city. The government of the Roman Republic is very similar to the political set up of the United States today. Although there is a defined hierarchy of power, checks and balance was built into the system prevent abuse of power. The Republic was a fairly efficient time in Roman history. Some of the infrastructures from the Republic are still standing today. The Appian Way (see Figure 2) and Appia Aqueduct are two examples. [2] The Appian Way was one of the first roads constructed in Rome.

During this era, Rome flourished as a city. The population increased and the area of the city began to expand. Roman expansion was also increased due to military conquest. With such a vast kingdom, the Romans began to constructed roads that traveled over larger distances. Via Flamina was constructed for travel between across Rome and out to the Adriatic Sea on the opposite coast of Italy. [2]

The fall of the Republic was marked by the rise of Julius Cesar and the rise of Imperial Rome. [2] Imperial Rome is defined by Emperors and their massive building projects. This era is the height of ancient Roman civilization. During this time, baths, buildings, and roads were constantly being constructed. The Roman Empire as a whole also grew to a tremendous size that included central Asia, Western Europe and Northern Africa. Roads were crucial in controlling such a vast empire. Like mentioned earlier, all roads really did lead to Rome at this time. With the fall of Imperial Rome came a dark time for Rome. Masses of people escaped to the countryside as the city was being overtaken and burned to the ground.

The next couple eras had less infrastructure significance and more religious and cultural importance. During the Middle Ages was the birth of the Catholic Church and beginning of the papacy. [2] Many of the most visited churches such as Saint Peter’s and San Clemente were built during this time. The periods after the Middle Ages was the Renaissance and Baroque eras. Art flourished during these years. Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel and the present day Saint Peter’s Basilica was completed. The iconic Trevi Fountain was also built during this time in 1762. [2]

Figure 3: Fascist leader, Benito Mussolini. Mussolini ruled Italy from 1922 to 1943. [3]

The end of the nineteenth century saw the formal entrance of Rome into the country of Italy and the twentieth century would mark the start of the modern era in Rome. Fascism and the dictatorship of Benito Mussolini defined the first half of the twentieth century (see Figure 3 for an image of Mussolini). Although tyrannical, Mussolini was an important influence for the modern city. He ratified and supported construction of neighborhoods around Rome and paved the way for transportation – both public and private.The neighborhoods around Rome were for the most part carefully planned and as the city spread from the center, the need for transportation became very apparent.

Under Mussolini’s regime, some of the major roads used today in Rome where built. This includes Via Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, Via del Corso, and Via Guilia (See the map of Via Corso Vittorio Emanuele II below. This is the heart of Historic Rome). Construction on the first subway line was also started in the early 1930s. The progress of these projects were halted by the First World War and at the end of the second one, Mussolini was forced out of power. In 1946, Italy became a Republic again. The second half of the century saw a steady increase in population and growth of the city. Another subway line and more roads were updated and built. Today, Rome is the fifth most populous city in Europe and a city of rich historical layers.