SUNDAY (October 25, 2009) Dante was worn out after all of the “A Passo Duomo” celebration around the cathedral.
The new mayor of Florence had decreed that the entire piazza surrounding the Duomo would become a pedestrian mall instead of a busy thoroughfare where over 500 buses and thousands of taxis round the Duomo every day. To mark the renaissance of the city center, the mayor threw a party.
There were balloons and hot chestnuts and free entrance to the Baptistry.
Notable figures from history – Dante, Galileo, Leonardo Da Vinci – made an appearance and wandered the square.
A parade of costumed flag-throwers, drummers and trumpeters escorted an ancient bus on one last ride down Via Martelli.
The Misericordia (the volunteer emergency medical service), located near the bell tower, displayed an antique ambulance.
The day ended with Mozart, Bach and Mendelssohn echoing off the walls of the 600-year-old cathedral to a standing-room-only crowd, courtesy of the Maggio Musicale orchestra and chorus, directed by Seiji Ozawa.
MONDAY (October 26, 2009) is a different wonderful life for those wandering the historic center of Florence. For one block in every direction of the cathedral, the streets are filled with tourists (and a few locals), not traffic.
It has been suggested this will increase shopping in the historic center. It certainly makes it more inviting to linger rather than rush along.
Some have tried to quantify the environmental impact, saying that it will reduce the 450 kilos of fine particulate matter and the exceedingly high levels of carbon monoxide trapped between the buildings that line the piazza. Florence is one of the most polluted cities in Italy – so every little bit helps. However, with the drastic changes in the bus routes, there are now over 2,000 bus traveling through Piazza San Marco every day.
Maybe the mayor’s other decision to cancel the clean electric tramline routes throughout the city should be reconsidered. And now that the buses aren’t griming the Duomo, the bishop should consider steam-cleaning the back side of the cathedral.