Traffic congestion is one of the worst blights of Italy's art cities and local authorities have on the whole been slow to tackle the problem. There are, however, some happy exceptions. The splendidly preserved medieval town of Perugia (Umbria) began to introduce a courageous and revolutionary public transport system twenty years ago, starting with the construction of a series of underground escalators  tunelling down through the depths of the Paolina Castle rock and, in 2008, adding the Minimetro, a nifty monorail link between the Pian di Massiano plain and the town centre  some 160 mt. above.

Perugia had already pedestrianized its main thoroughfare, Corso Vannucci, in 1979  the first town in Italy to introduce this measure. The earliest escalator system, built in 1983, conveys residents and visitors to Piazza Italia, the main square, from the bus terminal and major parking lot at Piazza Partigiani. Subsequently, the system has been expanded to form a network of lifts and escalators linking the town's ancient acropolis with the valley below. Travelling through the spacious shafts, arches and walls in the bowels of the medieval fortress is an exciting and novel experience. You can even buy your souvenirs here. There are craft stalls and gourmet stands tucked in corners.

The Minimetro is considered to be one of the most innovative automated people mover systems in the world. Designed by award-winning French architect Jean Nouvel, and inaugurated on the Feast of St. Costanzo, January 29 2008, after five years' work and a total cost of 98 million (+VAT), its 25 cars soar effortlessly up the steep hillside. The 4 km total rail run takes ten minutes and goes partly through tunnels and partly in the open air, offering stupendous panoramic views of the surrounding Umbria countryside. The seven stations are positioned to serve key areas in the town and to connect with other means of public transport.

The result is a town centre that has rediscovered its original nature, with people circulating freely along traffic-free streets and monuments preserved from the worst kind of pollution.

Margaret Stenhouse



Posted on 11 Jun 2013 by Editor
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