If you want to see an idyllic, small Italian city, Perugia may be the place for you. It fits all the characteristics of those beautiful Italian towns from the movies. However, it hasn’t forever. It took visionaries with a green spirit to turn the city around. National Geographic recently covered the transformation of this town as part of a series on energy issues. Here’s a lead-in to its piece:
The Corso, the main drag of the Umbria region’s capital city, styles itself as Perugia’s living room rather than as a thoroughfare for motorists. So as the setting sun turns the buildings amber, tourists and tired office workers jockey for café seats or wander in and out of shops without the worries about parking or vehicle tie-ups that are endemic to so many of the world’s cities.
There is simply no traffic.
It wasn’t always like this. Not long ago, Corso Vannucci and surrounding streets were thronged with cars, trucks, and buses instead of pedestrians. The buildings were encrusted with soot, instead of shining pink and proud. Traffic clogged the narrow streets, and Perugia’s residents wondered how their smart little city became such an urban nightmare.
As cities around the world grapple with issues of traffic and congestion that degrade the quality of urban life, it is worth taking a look at how Perugia turned its story around.
Perugia’s transformation started in the 1980s when city archaeologists “unearthed the subterranean streets of a former patrician neighborhood under a park that was built far below Perugia’s urban core.” The town then decided to build a lower town around this neighborhood and connected it to the city center with escalators, buses, and a “minimetro” while limiting car use in the area.
The minimetro was a transit system that fit the need and location better than a subway or tram could and was the key to really keeping cars out (especially during large festivals and events, which Perugia hosts a number of).
“This is Perugia,” said Mayor Wladimiro Boccali. “In a city like ours, with its wealth of art and history, we had to do something original. The minimetro is more than public transport. It’s architecture, technology, design.”
Minimetros, as you can see in the photo above, are like little subway cars. They run every minute or so and cost about 1.50 Euros or $2 per ride.
For more on the city’s transformation and minimetros, check out the National Geographic post: With a Deep Dig Into Its Past, Perugia Built an Energy-Saving Future
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