Illustration by Leo Cardini
It's about time, the majority of locals respond. Finally, one thing that Florentines agree to agree on: rid Piazza Duomo of vehicles and their pollutants to make one of the most famous squares in Italy pedestrian-only. Mayor Matteo Renzi announced the unexpected news in September and the city has been abuzz ever since.
‘It's the best news I've heard from Palazzo Vecchio in a long time', said a native Florentine walking down via Calzaiuoli. ‘The historical centre finally free of car pollutants and the Duomo free of that horrible black grime', said a local artist who lives near the piazza. ‘Piazza Duomo without cars, buses, and carriages is what the city desperately needed...in order to breathe', said an English-born resident who walks through the piazza everyday on her way to work.
Visitors agree. ‘I'm surprised that it wasn't done already', said an American tourist admiring the Baptistery's bronze doors.
Staunch opponent of the Tramvia Line 3 that was planned to pass alongside the Baptistery, culture minister Sandro Bondi expressed ‘great satisfaction with the decision of the mayor of Florence, Matteo Renzi, to render pedestrian the entire area surrounding the Duomo of Florence, definitively annulling the Tramvia'.
The countdown has begun. By October 25, Piazza Duomo will be clear of the thousands of vehicles that have passed by and through the square for years-horses and carriages included. Renzi vows that ‘not even the mayor's car will pass through the Piazza, nor will that of the Bishop'.
Vehicles are totally off limits, punto.
The new pedestrian area extends beyond the Duomo and the Baptistry, to the adjacent via Martelli, via Ricasoli and via dei Servi, to via dei Pucci. The pedestrian zone will be inaugurated with an open-air concert by the Maggio Musicale on October 25.
The decision to close the central piazza off to city traffic had become necessary, say many Florentines, and comes at a moment in history in which the city of Florence gasps for air. The decision will help reduce the 2.6 tonnes of carbon monoxide and the 450 kilos of fine particulate that currently pollute the area. The number of buses that daily travel through the center will drop to 2,200 from 2,740. Officials are still ironing out the details for re-routing Ataf lines 31, 32, 33, 14, 23 (see www.ataf.it for updates).
Taxi stands in Piazza Duomo will also be repositioned. Taxi drivers seem to be some of the few that have not given full approval of Piazza Duomo's new face. ‘Making Piazza Duomo totally pedestrian may decrease the quality of taxi services and an increase in fees', says Florence's taxi association, Cut.
One thing is sure: the majority of Florentines and lovers of city have praised the move. Florence's ‘revolutionary' mayor Renzi says his decision to make Piazza Duomo totally pedestrian is ‘the first step to re-launching one of the world's most well-known cities, and improving citizens' quality of life by applying the Greek concept of agora'.