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.
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> Shopping hours also need to be liberalised in the country’s financial centre – people queue outside the few food stores open on Sundays.
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> 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.

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3 thoughts on “Problems with Italian Cities

  1. Seamus says:
    One thing that bugged me about living in France was that if you didn’t have any smokes on a Sunday and left it til after mid-day to go in search, you were completely screwed least you find a bar that most likely sold Lucky Strikes (bleurgh).
  2. Robin says:
    Was the same in Holland, Sundays you couldn’t buy anything. I kinda liked that though, it’s got old world charm, but that was in Delft, a quiet town between Den Haag and Rottedam. The cities still had stuff open. Strangely enough right now I’m living by a huge jewish camera/electronics shop in NY that closes on Saturdays for Sabbath. My mind boggled when I realised the potential business/footfall they were letting go to Best Buy. Midtown Manhattan is swarming with consumers on Saturdays. Corporate greed has turned most of America into a sea of 24 hour chain places as I witnessed in the Mid-West so it’s nice to see some places not purely motivated by making a profit for a change. It may not be convienient for the consumer to close but it keeps the shop owners sane and happy.
  3. Emmet says:
    I’m moving to Z├╝rich, Monocole’s “number one city”, to live in a few weeks time. I certainly like what I’ve seen of it so far, but from what I already know if also suffers from a lot of the same problems you’re describing. You can only buy basic food on a Sunday from the train station, and supposedly things like getting forms filled out must be so efficient that they become a bureaucratic nightmare. The point being that these city rankings are based on pretty arbitrary metrics — look, they have wee trams and a lovely airport! — that don’t take lots of important factors — people, craic — into account. Bottom line, I’m retaining my right to complain about things, and I look forward to joining your moaning ex-pat ranks soon. And I wouldn’t give a gypsie’s ballbag what Monocole say anyway.

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