We all need time to refresh and reinvigorate. Long-time Board Member Dan Taylor recently took a break from Bellingham for some R&R in Italy. Here’s some thoughts on his visit:
A Trip to Italy
My wife, Michelle, and I recently returned from an Italy trip. It seems like most people we know have been there. But it was a first for us–and a thrill! We saw so much great art in museums and churches, large and small, by the time we got to Rome and the Sistine Chapel, it was almost ho hum. The people were friendly, the landscape was beautiful, the history palpable. And the food!
But one of the things that impressed me most was the mobility. For a country that has been on the verge of economic collapse for as long as I can remember, and one with a reputation of corrupt government, it has incredible infrastructure. Small hill cities have funiculars and elevators to get you to different levels. Funiculars from the train station to the old urban center have a fee. The elevators are free. Trains, even local ones, run on time.
I was particularly impressed with the high speed trains. We rode one from Rome to Naples, took a minibus to Pompeii, spent two hours on a guided tour and were back in Rome by 2:15 in the afternoon.
Traffic can be crazy, particularly in Rome. The secret for a pedestrian there is to cross at a signalized cross walk in a crowd. If on your own at an uncontrolled intersection, the secret is to maintain a steady predictable pace and let the cars whizz around you.
In the smaller cities, even Florence, it is much more civilized. Cars are often precluded from many of the streets and lanes. Where they are allowed they also tend to whizz about when given the chance, but are usually outnumbered by pedestrians,mopeds and bicycles so have to exercise caution and recognize they are not king of the road. And small shops were everywhere, many seeming to prefer small lanes with no cars.
We also spent a day and a half in Amsterdam on our way to Italy. In Amsterdam the bicycle is king. In major streets there are bicycle lanes. Everywhere else everyone co-mingles including the cars when they are allowed. Trams and canal boats are other useful forms of transportation. On a canal trip we passed a multi-storied bicycle parking garage which held over 2000 bicycles–but apparently there was a pent up demand for 10,000.
Of course, in both Amsterdam and Italy we were in the older, central parts of town. And few of us would choose to live at such densities. Though in one hotel in Sienna we lugged our bags up three floors to be rewarded with a guest balcony that had a sweeping view of a valley and the central cathedral less than a mile away. Many of the residents surrounding the hotel had the same view. Something worth giving up one’s yard for. Lugging bags up several flights of stairs and getting rewarding views was not unusual in the hotels where we stayed.
Also the outskirts of the cities were designed very much the way we do it.
But it makes one wonder. Where are our high speed trains? And in areas like Bellingham’s waterfront redevelopment, might smaller streets where cars and people co-mingle provide a better environment?