The proposed closure of one of Rome's main streets, the Via dei Fori Imperiali that crosses the Roman forum from Piazza Venezia to the Colosseum, has been controversial from the start...it began thirty years ago!
For some, practical people who prefer to live in the present rather than the past, it would cause catastrophic traffic jams and hurt the sales of shopkeepers. For others - mostly Green-minded and lovers of History - it would at last give back to Humanity the fora of Imperial Rome, the Cradle of Western Civilization and, incidentally, help boost tourism.
This is the Fori Imperiali without traffic on a recent Sunday (the avenue has been closed on Sundays for years):
And here are some of the people who wanted the measure:
With Rome's new mayor, center-left Ignazio Marini, the closure has come to pass. Marini is a
Sicilian born in Genoa and an organ transplant surgeon who worked 20
years in the US and held chairs as professor of surgery in two prestigious American
universities (Pittsburgh and Philadelphia) and only returned to Italy in
2006. He applied this measure almost as soon as he was elected, it was
one of the promises of his election campaign.
The closure was implemented Saturday August 3 and concerned only half the avenue linking Piazza Venezia to the Colosseum, a very short segment:
No doubt, he came to it with a "can do" attitude he'd learned in America forgetting that he was dealing with Italy. The chorus of complaints has been deafening.Traffic jams have been enormous, people drove up against police barriers unaware of the closure:
Will Romans get used to it? Probably. They don't have much of a choice anyway. My guess is that the closure is here to stay.
Will tourists get a kick out of this new walk? Maybe.
The real beneficiaries are no doubt the Roman ruins that will be freed from traffic vibrations and fumes.
And the Mayor? Oh, he's very happy. He's even asked the Government to refrain using the Via dei Fori Imperiali for its "blue cars" (official cars). Look how happy Marini is on his bike:
So is everything fine in the best of worlds? Not really. Traffic jams mean more pollution. Closing a central avenue in the heart of a city means you divide the city in two, it becomes hard to go from East to West.
Am I in favor? I would be, one hundred percent, if only Rome had a reasonable public transport system but it doesn't. Buses are few and slow, there are only two Metro (underground) lines, and Rome has been waiting already 6 years for completion of the third line - which may never be finished, given the current recession...
Well, we still have the Italian sun and the beauty of Rome's ruins!