Thursday, February 23, 2012

Lessons of via Faentina, part 5 and finale

The street where I live becomes my miscreant muse:
the final installment in a series about quality-of-life issues
in the cradle of the Renaissance.

Dear Readers,

The shards of automobile littered the street and narrow sidewalk. Pieces of black and silver and red plastic, along with bits of metal--the detritus of the latest traffic accident--bore mute testimony to the dangers of via Faentina.

My children and I saw this as we walked to school last week, and I was overcome with a feeling of frustrated resignation. I had just read in La Nazione about another accident, in another part of the city, near several schools, where a mother and her 6 year-old daughter were run down in a pedestrian crossing by an 84 year-old man who claims he didn't see them because of the sunlight shining in his eyes. Analysis showed that he had barely even touched the brakes. Fortunately, the mother used her body to shield her daughter so the girl wasn't badly hurt, but mom suffered various fractures and injuries. Parents gathered around and complained to the reporter about the dangers of speeding traffic in the area, about the perilous nature of the local school/pedestrian crossings, and about the need for speed bumps and other traffic safety measures. The article also highlighted another issue here in Italy that tends to surface when such accidents occur: the ongoing controversy of allowing people over 80 to continue driving. (A couple of years ago, our gate at the bottom of the driveway was mangled by a 90 year-old man who had fallen asleep at the wheel--supposedly--and crashed into it. Luckily none of us happened to be coming or going at the time).

It's all sound and fury, signifying nothing. Nothing will ever change. Accidents continue to happen, people get hurt or killed, there is outrage and complaining, the occasional article appears--and then silence. As far as my little corner of Florence goes--I have written countless letters to Palazzo Vecchio and to the various entities which oversee traffic issues, I have written to both local and national newspapers, I wrote an Op-Ed piece in the local English paper on this issue, and I began this blog series. I've talked to other parents--all of whom complain but none of whom seem willing to band together and do anything (but perhaps they know the system we're up against far better than I).

Italy ranks third in Europe for road deaths involving cyclists (preceded by Germany and Poland), and it's easy to see why--people on bicycles have to share the road with thousands of drivers with very dangerous driving habits who careen through the cities with seeming impunity. Pedestrians, too, as I have pointed out previously, also count for very little in this nation which privileges wheels over human beings.


Via Faentina continues to be throttled with heavy, two-way traffic. Years ago, the national railway spent loads of money building a train station (called the Salviati) in the neighborhood, with a huge parking lot--ostensibly aimed at commuters coming in from the north. For reasons perhaps only fathomable to the bureaucrats, it was never used, has been abandoned, and has fallen into disrepair--acting as a playground for vandals, a garbage dump, and a strange gypsy camp for RV's and trucks whose owners appear to live within.

Parking fees no one has to pay

Waiting for a train that will never come

Paths reclaimed by nature

It's a pity--because the views of Fiesole from here are lovely

Salviati changed to "save yourself?"

The wise know when to admit defeat. So, dear Readers, I raise my hands in that universal gesture of surrender and throw in the proverbial Tuscan towel. I don't know what else I can do in terms of "community action." I know that traffic safety in my neighborhood will never improve, that every day I walk my children to school shall continue to be fraught with stress and worry over their safety. My little patch of Italy apparently matters little to the powers that be, and it is no consolation to me in imagining that all the other little patches of this chaotic peninsula share the same fate. It would indeed seem that all one can try and do in the face of such civic indifference is--as the sign above so eloquently says--save yourself, as best you can.




  1. The train station parking lot is a symbol of all the things you have been talking spent on the wrong things...neglect...

    The thing that boggled my mind was the graffiti everywhere...not just in Florence..Paris , Rome..any place...and it's just left there..all over ...

    It's a symbol of the depression the whole continent seems to be suffering from...

    Stay safe when walking or riding your bike...we are in the process here in Ontario of addressing elder drivers...they already have to be tested each year to renew their licence but there is talk of even stricter never know who's behind the wheel these days or what they are doing.

    1. debbie, you hit the nail on the head--the train station conceived to alleviate commuter traffic on the roads as a symbol of government waste and mismanagement, of indifference to very real problems, of apathy, etc. Sigh.

      Elder drivers are a problem everywhere, I suppose. I've never heard of any who get in accidents here getting their licenses revoked, however. (But god, I hope they do). My FIL is now 86 years old and nearly stone deaf and refuses to wear a hearing aid--and routinely gets speeding tickets or tickets for running lights. But they keep renewing his license.

  2. Outside our house in Milan there is a very dangerous junction. Drivers cross it without looking far too often and drivers coming down the road towards the junction often go too fast.

    I have now lost count of the number of accidents I've seen - most involving cars, but plenty involving scooters.

    Milan has suffered from a rash of incidents involving cyclists recently.

    Drivers in Italy don't seem to realise cars are somewhat dangerous machines and appear to adopt an 'It'll never happen to me" attitude.

    I have lost count of the number of times I have nearly been wiped out while crossing the road - usually at pedestrian crossings in Milan - others have not been so lucky. I take great care when crossing roads when my son is with me - as I am scared something will happen.

    Italy could do will a little driver education, and drivers might even find their insurance bills go down too.

    Oldies do tend to be somewhat dangerous - this is true.

    That Florence is the same does not surprise me. Naples terrified me!

    All the best from Milan,


    PS When I cycle, I avoid roads!

    1. Thanks for dropping by and sharing your experiences, Alex.

      And keep safe up there in Milan--as they say, it's a (concrete) jungle out there! ;)

  3. There is nothing that drives me wilder than the reckless driving in this country. The blatant disregard for rules and the cheek and ignorance of drivers. Many times I had made furious gestures at bad and dangerous drivers and have noted that if I am driving a small car, the reaction of a male will be absolutely seething (haha). I have also been honked at pedestrian crossings, have been touched by a car when crossing myself and was told by an ex that he 'would teach me to drive a little faster'. (He was once chased by the police who saw him do an illegal turn, caught and taken off to the police station - absolutely petrified.)

    I'll be quiet now, but I have never seen such lawless driving (an unbelted children in back seats!)

    1. DLC--I too am given awestruck looks by male drivers when I dare to yell at them! [she says, with fiendish glee] I've also had a SUV bump me when I was standing in its way (still fume about that, too).

      Unfortunately all this mayhem just comes with the territory. All we can do is try and keep from becoming road kill.

      Love the story about your ex, by the way :)


Polite comments are always welcome.
Sometimes Blogger has problems. If you don't see your comment, try posting from another browser such as Google Chrome.