Rome has jumped 14 places in an annual ranking of Italian provinces according to the quality of life they offer. The Eternal City and environs took 21st place in the classification for 2002, buoyed by their high living standards but still weighed down by some of the worst crime rates in the country.

The list was compiled by business daily Il Sole-24 Ore, which ranked 103 provinces according to six criteria: standard of living, business and work, environment and services, population, public order and free time. Sondrio, near the Swiss border in Lombardia, came first in the rankings while Foggia in northern Puglia was last.

Rome scored well in the standard of living category, coming fourth overall. Strangely though, it was almost bottom of the list in 102nd place with regard to gyms, with just 1.7 for every 100,000 inhabitants. The city ranked 40th for business and work, taking first place for the greatest number of foreigners being regularised, but slumped to 54th position according to population criteria, due partly to high numbers of divorces and separations.

With regard to public order Rome plunged to 101st place, as a result of continuing problems with crime and security. The city was last on the list with the highest number of reported car thefts (1,110 for every 100,000 inhabitants), just two from the bottom according to the number of bag-snatching incidents, and in 100th place when it came to robberies, with 117 for every 100,000 inhabitants.

Meanwhile police figures for 2002 show a 30 per cent increase in the number of women wishing to possess guns for self-defence. The total number of Romans with semi-automatics or revolvers is 5,896, with 386 new applications in 2002.