Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Lessons of via Faentina, part 4

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.

Dear Readers,

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.


  1. Omg, in that second photo, it looks like the truck and bus are about to face off! Yikes.

  2. that is just's beyond belief

    this is the side of "beautiful Florence" that the tourists just don't see or even care to see...

    sadly it will take someone either really old or really young getting run over before anything gets done.

    merry christmas indeed.

  3. Yikes, indeed, Michelle!

    Debbie, you're so right--this is the Florence that most tourists certainly never see, and it is the Florence that most city officials refuse to see.

    I experience real stress and fear every day I walk this street with my children--indeed, children under the age of 12 are never seen walking it alone; they're not allowed to for obvious reasons. It's not a good way to live.

    Thanks for your comments, ladies!

  4. Martin3:23 AM

    I know the area from years back, rather unsportingly but in the accepted conventional fashion, nipping along on a noisy motorino as quickly as possible. There is no alternative north/ south route for the traffic to ease the pressures and reduce the traffic congestion in this part of the via Faentina. It was probably worse when via dei Roccettini had 2-way flow; which is also not comforting. There is a new housing project in the vicinity(news of the granting of planning consent was, I hear, met with some surprise) and this development could add to the volume of traffic movements. I assume there's no alternative pedestrian path along the Mugnone. Has anywhere in Italy ever considered the Safe Routes to School movement, Walking Bus etc?

  5. Martin, thank you so much for this thoughtful comment (and commentary). You know the pitfalls of the area--can you believe that the Roccettini used to be two-way? I remember once, when it still was, seeing a poor stray/lost dog get hit by a car there. I was walking along it with my kids--it was the last time I did THAT.

    There is no route along the Mugnone, unfortunately. And you make a good point--with the new European University housing development, traffic on via Faentina can only get worse. There is the (now defunct) train stop/parking area of la Salviati which COULD be used as a way of commuting--but it lies fallow (I'll be posting about this soon).

    Safety measures/alternatives such as you mention unfortunately do not exist, and from what I understand, past efforts by residents to improve things have been useless.


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