The street where I live becomes my miscreant muse:
the fourth installment in a series about quality-of-life issues
in the cradle of the Renaissance.
The usual mayhem continues. Last week, while walking home from school with my children, a large panel truck--when faced with tight oncoming traffic--decided to jump the curb right alongside us without consulting his side-view mirror, nearly flattening us into American pancakes. My hearty curses rang out along via Faentina, the crossing-guard vigili down the street a-ways glanced in my direction--and did nothing.
Recently, this sign appeared on our little 33-inch sidewalk:
It says "sidewalk in disorder." Indeed. And no wonder--heavy trucks and buses routinely avail themselves of it, making it perilously pockmarked and uneven. One of these days some old Signora on her way to the pharmacy is going to stumble and wind up under the wheels of the 1A. I don't know why this sign should suddenly appear--the sidewalk has been in ruins for the ten years I've been living here. Could it have something to do with my recent letters of complaint to the City? (Ha! That's a good one). Are they covering their precious Florentine asses in case someone does, indeed, get maimed or killed? Of course, some nincompoop didn't notice that the sign itself takes up half of the already miserly sidewalk, rendering it even more pericoloso.
No one cares about how you experience your neighborhood or your city, so why should you?
The great civic apathy of this place has been one of the most difficult things for me to adjust to as an American. And it creates a vicious circle: the city doesn't give a ripe, flying fig about the daily livability concerns of its citizens, so the citizens in turn treat their city like a lawless dump--graffiti, garbage, litter, dog droppings, and vandalism are rampant. Traffic and parking laws are wilfully, routinely--even gleefully--ignored because it's quite clear it's every man, woman and child for themselves out there in the Renaissance jungle. Citizens who do voice their concerns are ignored or even denigrated. I've seen other parents expressing their anger and frustration to the vigili over traffic problems in via Faentina and the flouting of the no-vehicle ordinance for the alleyway during school drop-off and pick-up times. The vigili either nod vacantly or argue defensively. Years ago, residents of via Faentina fought to get pedestrian crossing stripes painted on the street in front of the little church of Santa Maria del Fiore a Lapo so that old ladies wouldn't be run down on their way to Mass. They created a petition calling for greater safety measures on the street and sent it to city hall--to little avail. They were granted the pedestrian crossing (which is all but ignored by speeding traffic anyway), but nothing else.
Here are a few snaps I took this morning, on my way back from walking the kids to school. The images are far more eloquent than I could ever be in describing a neighborhood street that was never meant to bear such heavy, ferocious, two-way modern-day traffic.
The vigili were nowhere to be seen.
For more Lessons of via Faentina, click on the label below.