Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Modern Italian Renaissance

There seem to be no set driving regulations in Italy; in fact, the concept of lanes and stop lights is completely lost in cities like Rome, Florence and Milan. Hours for stores, museums and attractions are unreliable, with long breaks taken in the middle of the day when cities completely shut down and receiving service is out of the question. Streets are not exactly pedestrian friendly, especially since most are made of cobblestones, and crossing areas are a game of chance. Despite everything, it's easy to get swept up in the chaotic bliss of Italy. The lack of organization and efficiency is shadowed by the carefree, laid back atmosphere of the country, where the Italians live by a "cosi e la vita"--such is life--standard. However, Italy is seeing some changes this year, with general improvements to accommodate tourists and locals alike.

An article by Rick Steves on highlighted many of the initiatives put in place around Italy to create a more organized, efficient and convenient system when it comes to transportation and tourist attractions. For starters, the crazy long lines and hectic crowds at the Vatican may diminish slightly thanks to the new online reservation system--which seems to be working pretty well, so far. The Vatican Museum has also extended its hours, staying open until 11 p.m. on Friday nights from April to October. The Coliseum will receive some much-needed spring cleaning, and be equipped with permanent lighting, making areas that were once hidden available to explore. A brand new modern train station is being built at Triburtina, and it will welcome high-speed rails sometime this year. As far as shopping goes--and Italy is known for its high-class designers--visitors and fashionistas alike will revel in full-day operations, meaning no more long lunch breaks where many stores would be closed in the middle of the day.

There are major changes in other Italian cities, too. For anyone whose been to Florence in the last couple years, you know how aggravating construction and renovation can be. While more projects are in the works, others are finally finishing up, including the Galileo Science Museum. Pisa is keeping it's famous tower open late during the busy summer months, and they have also put a new reservation system in place.  Milan is in heavy remodeling mode as it prepares to host the 2015 World's Fair. The Duomo will be closed until then, but this is nothing new for the iconic structure, as it seems to always be under some kind of renovation (it has every time I've been there.) Venice is taking a turn away from the ancient and embracing the modern, at least when it comes to art. A new museum is opening at the end of the Grand Canal that features art pieces from some of today's most talented contemporary artists. Another move into the future for Venice is the installment of a monorail, a shuttle train that transports passengers via a circular cable from the Tronchetto parking lot to the Piazzale Roma. Though this new form of transportation is simple and convenient, I'm sure many people still opt for the water taxis and gondolas as a means of getting into the city. (Unless they decide to walk, then that works, too.)

It seems that Italy is taking small steps to improve their infrastructure and provide tourists some ease when traveling through the country. But even with these changes, that same lack-of-respect-for-pedestrians and working-when-we-feel-like-it attitude is still prevalent, and, in all honesty, I wouldn't have it any other way.
It's classic Italian.

To read more from Rick Steves on the developments going on in Europe, check out this article on Spain and France.

1 comment:

  1. EET-AH-LEE!!!

    I've never been but definitely sounds like a great place to be...thanks for the lowdown!