It may boast the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps and the glories that were ancient Rome, but the city is now in chronic decline, its business leaders and inhabitants have warned.
The Eternal City is facing crisis, with its administration engulfed in corruption scandals and debt, its roads scarred by pot-holes, the main airport partially closed and a growing immigration crisis.
For generations, the Italian capital has rested on past glories rather than built on them but now its multiple problems have come to a head.
Drivers on the metro system are on a go-slow in a protest over pay and conditions, hundreds of flights into Fiumicino, the main airport, have been cancelled due to a fire that broke out in a terminal back in May, and temperatures have soared this week to over 100F (37.7C), making daily life even more hellish than normal.
“Rome is on the verge of collapse,” Giancarlo Cremonesi, the president of the Rome Chamber of Commerce, told Reuters.
“It is unacceptable that a major city which calls itself developed can find itself in such a state of decay.”
A survey by the European Commission two years ago placed Rome last out of 28 EU capitals in a ranking for the efficiency of city services.
Despite great food, superb coffee and an enviable climate, on an index of quality of life, the capital came second to last, with Athens at the bottom.
Its Renaissance churches, cobbled streets and vibrant piazzas still wow tourists from around the world, but beyond the historic centre, the city is a mess and life is a struggle for locals.
Everything has been exacerbated by the effects of Italy’s longest recession since the Second World War, with homeless people on the street and youth unemployment over 40 per cent.
Broken-down motor scooters and bicycles are dumped on pavements, kerbs are overgrown with grass and shrubs, and there is litter everywhere.
Along the Tiber River, Romany gipsies have set up shanty villages, their shacks hidden from view by tall thickets of cane grass.
A lack of bins mean that locals and visitors alike drop their rubbish on the ground, while a much-hyped bike sharing scheme which was launched a few years ago has broken down entirely, the bicycles either damaged or stolen.
“It has got a lot worse in the last few years,” Costanza Cagni, who has lived in the city since 2000, told The Telegraph.
“Everybody moans but nobody offers any solutions. The quality of life has really gone down. I’m sorry to say it, but I just want to leave Rome and move somewhere else.”
The city was hit by a major corruption scandal earlier this year which explained, in part, why public services are so shoddy.
An investigation found that corrupt local politicians had colluded with criminal gangs to cream off money from a range of services, from rubbish collection to the management of refugee facilities.
Massimo Carminati was among 37 people arrested last year in a police crackdown on extortion, corruption, fraud, money laundering and embezzlement in the capital (Photo: AP)
The scandal has been dubbed “Mafia Capitale”, and comes amid growing evidence that the city is being infiltrated by organised crime groups.
On Wednesday police raided a restaurant close to the Pantheon, the ancient Roman temple that was later converted into a church, on suspicion that it was controlled by the Calabrian mafia, the feared ‘Ndrangheta.
The crime syndicate is believed to be laundering more and more of its money through legitimate businesses in Rome, as well as Milan.
Exploitation by criminal gangs has exacerbated years of incompetent administration by the city council.
Ignazio Marino, a former surgeon who is now mayor of Rome, acknowledged that much of the city’s public administration was “substantially rotten”.
In an open letter this week to Corriere della Sera, a leading daily, he said that like Matteo Renzi, the prime minister, who is trying to push through difficult reforms at the national level, he too was trying to implement “profound and radical reforms” in the capital.
He said he had come up against a “cancer” of favouritism and deep resistance to change. But as he wages that fight, historic buildings remain daubed with ugly graffiti, with the culprits hardly ever caught.
On main roads out of the city, teenage prostitutes from eastern Europe and west Africa tout for business in miniskirts and high heels – a brutal departure from the romantic image of the capital portrayed by sentimental films such as Eat, Pray, Love or Three Coins in the Fountain.
“Rome is a very long way from normal Western standards of civility and decorum,” said Massimiliano Tonelli, the founder of a website called Roma Fa Schifo, or Rome is Disgusting, which logs the city’s problems.
“It’s a combination of bad administration, corruption, and bureaucracy. The metro hasn’t worked properly for the last 15 days. If that was the case in London, you would have a public revolt on your hands.”
Rome needed a leader such as Rudi Giuliani, the former mayor of New York, who in the 1990s cleaned up the metropolis with a regime of zero tolerance, drawing on the “broken windows theory”, which held that if minor violations were tolerated, much more serious crimes would flourish.
“If someone parks illegally or urinates in the street, they need to be fined. We need to tackle egoism and individualism, the idea that it is every-man-for himself,” said Mr Tonelli.
Rubbish, bad transport and graffiti harm tourism – each year the city attracts around 10 million visitors but the rate of repeat visits is among the lowest inEurope.
“We need a complete change of mentality. New York in the nineties was very similar to how Rome is now – there was corruption, it was dirty, nobody paid when they travelled on the metro, there was graffiti. It can be done. It is not irrecoverable,” Mr Tonelli said.