Problems with Italian Cities

This month’s Monocle includes their 2009 list of the world’s top 25 most liveable cities (link goes to a frankly terrifying and ominous video run-down of the list). In the magazine, they start with an interesting article about why not one Italian city features in the top 25 cities. Here are the bits that resonated with me:

> Though attractive spots for 48 hours of sightseeing or shopping, more needs to be done for their residents. Take public transport. Poorly funded and chronically late, the number of commuters on buses and trams actually fell in 2008. With most people behind the wheel, city centres are gridlocked and pavements used as makeshift car parks. Rome alone notches up 70 cars for every 100 inhabitants – Paris has just 26.
> …
> Shopping hours also need to be liberalised in the country’s financial centre – people queue outside the few food stores open on Sundays.
> In their favour, Italy’s metropolises rank high for their food and café culture, enviable climate and wealth of cultural offerings. With more nimble public services and a better infrastructure, a few could soon make the grade.

“Enviable climate” aside (during the day it gets so unbearably hot I can barely think straight), this goes some way to describing why I have found Rome such a difficult place to live. It gets a lot of things right, but at the same time, it gets so many little things so completely, head-slappingly wrong.

For example, the post office is still the only place to pay bills and it closes at 1pm. I’ve been in my local post office a few times and heard tourists being told that, no, the post office does not sell stamps (stupid tourists!). For stamps, they must go out and around the corner to another post office. But the post office around the corner is actually the same post office. It’s just a different door.

This is the 21st century. We are literally months away from the year 2010. We are actually, demonstrably living in the future. I mean, I’ve got a computer in my pocket that plays music, plays movies, takes calls, can connect to the fucking internet, but you’re telling me I can’t buy a bottle of milk at 3pm on a Sunday? It’s time to move on.



Aaaaaand we’re back.

We somehow managed to survive seven days in the July heat of Sardinia. In a tent.

Looking back, this was probably a bit of a cavalier adventure. I mean, something you learn very quickly is that the best way to survive a Roman summer is by spending all day under an air conditioner and only moving when you absolutely have to. What did we think we were doing, going somewhere even hotter than Rome?

Our first night was painful. We pitched our tent in the last spot in the campsite. We realised why this was the only available spot – it had absolutely no shade. We got everything set up, inflated our air matresses and headed off. Except – and here’s something we’ve learned – when air matresses are in near-direct sunlight all day, those things get hot. And they’re designed to release this heat slowly. So that was, by far, one of the worst night’s sleeps we have ever had.

Did I mention that Sardinia was also suffering from a freak heatwave?

The next day, we got up completely drenched in sweat, having gotten a total of about fifteen minutes of uninterrupted sleep. We felt sorry for ourselves, had a bit of a whinge, asked ourselves “What would Ray Mears do?” (“Kill himself,” was the response. “This would be too much even for him.”) Then we set about reorganizing our camp. There was still no other pitch for our tent, so we went to the supermarket and bought a load of string and pegs. We ripped out all the bedsheets and blankets we’d brought and, with the tarp that we had intended as a groundsheet, built a badass bedoin-style tent camp. It was all very impressive.

The camp, too, was impressive. We were staying in Porto Sosalinos, which seems to be run by ex-hippies. Their restaurant is all vegan this and organic that. And the whole thing is much more community-focused than other campsites I’ve been to, with communal fridges and freezers to keep your food in and a huge ‘common area’ with free wi-fi and a load of plug points where you can sit and relax while charging your electronics.

Oh, and I didn’t finish either Infinite Jest or Anathem, but I did manage to finish Foucault’s Pendulum, a book I only threw into my bag at the last minute. Go figure.

Anyway, normal programming resumes now.