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Has Rome's mayor won his battle against snack trucks? Only time will tell. PDF Print E-mail
Jul 10, 2015 at 10:49 AM
Image In modern Rome, government is a now you see it, now you don't phenomenon. So it remains to be seen if the administration headed by the unpopular Ignazio Marino (at the moment, seven out of ten Romans would not vote for him) has really won its battle agains the souvenir stands and snack trucks that park daily in the city's magnificent archeological area, marring the view of ancient monuments like the Coliseum.

This week a Rome administrative court, the TAR, ruled that the city of Rome is within its rights to ask licensed peddlers to move their trucks and stands away from the Eternal City's archeological monuments by today, Friday, July 10. The camion-bar - small refreshment trucks- and souvenir stands have continued for years to ignore the city's requests for them to move and now, it appears, they have no choice. This morning, early reports say, the area was clear.

The commercial enterprises against which the city has been waging its battle control 22 camion-bar, 43 souvenir stands and 11 florists, for a total of 76, most of which are said to be owned by the somewhat notorious Tredicine family whose various businesses - watermelon stands, snack trucks, chestnut sellers,, and clothing - are believed to be worth more than 25 million euros. The family has been buying up licenses since the 1950s and appealed to the court on the grounds that national regulations originally stated that a stand cannot be moved other than to a position that is equally remunerative, in this case impossible. But recently, parliament changed the existing law so that no legal obstacle prohibited the city administration from making changes.

This means that starting today the stands and trucks have to move elsewhere. The 22 camion bar have been re-assigned spots in other areas of Rome including Lungotevere Oberdan, Testaccio, Piazza della Vittoria, delle Armi Viale Maresciallo Diaz, via Marmorata, via Beniamino Franklin, via Antonino di San Giuliano, Piazza Albania, Largo Diaz, via della Piramide Cestia and Piazza del Fante.

The 43 souvenir stands, here called "urtisti" although goodness knows why, are to set up along Via di San Gregorio, on the side across from the Coliseum and the Palatine Hill. Three florists will be moved to Piazza di Spagna and the remaining 8 elsewhere.

Will the administration of Mayor Ignazio Marino follow through with by fining those who do not obey and confiscating their goods? This remains to be seen.

One problem is that the spaces left free by the camion bar may quickly be occupied by some of the hundreds of illegal peddlers, mostly foreigners but not only, who crowd central Rome's sidewalks. The city's prefect, Franco Gabrielli, has promised to constitute a task force to see that this does not happen, but Rome is not known for the ability of its police forces to follow through on issues of this sort.

So far the mayor - for reasons known only to himself - has allowed these illegal peddlers to occupy spaces throughout the city despite the fact that they have no licenses, no permits to occupy public soil, do not pay any taxes and compete unfairly with the city's stores. His lackadaisical response to this problem is, to my mind, a damning one.

Is Fiumicino Airport at Risk? Inappropriate building materials may have been used. PDF Print E-mail
Jul 09, 2015 at 02:17 PM
ImageThree months ago, Terminal 3 of Rome's Leonardo da Vinci airport (aka Fiumicino) suffered serious damages when faulty electrical connections caused a raging fire to break out and burn throughout the night. The repercussions have created significant organization problems for the terminal, which handles a huge chunk of international traffic (although not that going to North America and Israel).

But now, investigators say they have discovered a series of airport-wide irregularities - largely the failure to use non-inflammable materials in parts of the airport's structures - which, if they are not set right within the next three months, could result in a total shut-down.

The fire that raged in the early morning hours of April 30, led first to a temporary shut-down of the terminal with the resulting cancellations of hundreds of flight. The terminal re-opened a few days later but subsequently, following inspections by health authorities, a major take-off area, the D pier, with 13 gates, was deemed unsafe because of deposits of dioxin and other chemical particulates.

The airport has coped reasonably well although people checking in at Terminal 3 are currently re-routed through Terminal 1 or 2 and then, at times, bussed to other parts of the airport.
Now, however, things could get worse.

According to a report by the Fire Department sent to the Attorney General of Civitavecchia, which is handling the investigation and forwarded by him to the Interior Ministry in Rome, the filler substances used between the roofs and the dropped ceilings of the entire airport were not the inflammable materials required by law but inappropriate materials whose presence there may have contributed to the virulence of the fire. He has given the Airports of Rome company (ADR) three months to rectify this situation or else the airport could be closed down. ADR has set up a team of 100 engineers to work on the problem and says it is confident it can meet this deadline.

With an average of 827 takeoffs and landings a day, Fiumicino is Italy's biggest and busiest airport. Daily there are roughly 110,000 passengers, people flying planes belonging to some 100 airlines to or from 230 destinations in 80 countries. The airport's entire area amounts to 320,000 square meters. It has 4 terminals and some 40,000 employees and is of key importance in the Italian tourism industry.

Which is why this latest news is simply shocking. Or perhaps not. This is a very Italian story and by no means can the blame be placed solely on AdR's shoulders. Who disregarded the rules for proper fire safety regulations. Was someone saving money or just being careless.

But above all, how come no one noticed? Leonardo da Vinci aiport began operations back in 1961 but major expansions and restructurings took place throughout the 1990s and the early part of this century. Wasn't anybody looking? What kind of inspections were done, when and by whom? Were earlier inspectors bribed for their silence or is this just a result of the same slipshoddiness and sloppiness that has made Italy what it is (or isn't)?

 

Is Fiumicino Airport at Risk? Inappropriate building materials may have been used. PDF Print E-mail
Jul 09, 2015 at 02:17 PM
ImageThree months ago, Terminal 3 of Rome's Leonardo da Vinci airport (aka Fiumicino) suffered serious damages when faulty electrical connections caused a raging fire to break out and burn throughout the night. The repercussions have created significant organization problems for the terminal, which handles a huge chunk of international traffic (although not that going to North America and Israel).

But now, investigators say they have discovered a series of airport-wide irregularities - largely the failure to use non-inflammable materials in parts of the airport's structures - which, if they are not set right within the next three months, could result in a total shut-down.

The fire that raged in the early morning hours of April 30, led first to a temporary shut-down of the terminal with the resulting cancellations of hundreds of flight. The terminal re-opened a few days later but subsequently, following inspections by health authorities, a major take-off area, the D pier, with 13 gates, was deemed unsafe because of deposits of dioxin and other chemical particulates.

The airport has coped reasonably well although people checking in at Terminal 3 are currently re-routed through Terminal 1 or 2 and then, at times, bussed to other parts of the airport.
Now, however, things could get worse.

According to a report by the Fire Department sent to the Attorney General of Civitavecchia, which is handling the investigation and forwarded by him to the Interior Ministry in Rome, the filler substances used between the roofs and the dropped ceilings of the entire airport were not the inflammable materials required by law but inappropriate materials whose presence there may have contributed to the virulence of the fire. He has given the Airports of Rome company (ADR) three months to rectify this situation or else the airport could be closed down. ADR has set up a team of 100 engineers to work on the problem and says it is confident it can meet this deadline.

With an average of 827 takeoffs and landings a day, Fiumicino is Italy's biggest and busiest airport. Daily there are roughly 110,000 passengers, people flying planes belonging to some 100 airlines to or from 230 destinations in 80 countries. The airport's entire area amounts to 320,000 square meters. It has 4 terminals and some 40,000 employees and is of key importance in the Italian tourism industry.

Which is why this latest news is simply shocking. Or perhaps not. This is a very Italian story and by no means can the blame be placed solely on AdR's shoulders. Who disregarded the rules for proper fire safety regulations. Was someone saving money or just being careless.

But above all, how come no one noticed? Leonardo da Vinci aiport began operations back in 1961 but major expansions and restructurings took place throughout the 1990s and the early part of this century. Wasn't anybody looking? What kind of inspections were done, when and by whom? Were earlier inspectors bribed for their silence or is this just a result of the same slipshoddiness and sloppiness that has made Italy what it is (or isn't)?

 

Fallout from May fire putting Fiumicino traffic – and Italian tourism ? at risk. PDF Print E-mail
Jun 13, 2015 at 06:42 PM
After ongoing uncertainties about possible health problems caused by a severe fire at Terminal 3 in May, the Italian Civil Aviation Board (ENAC) has decided to reduce air traffic at Fiumicino airport by 40% for the foreseeable future. Coming just as the tourist season is moving into high gear, visitors can expect significant check-in delays or re-routing to Rome's smaller airport, Ciampino. The cutback was asked for by AdR (Aeroporti di Roma) but is not good news for anyone.

ImageThe new regulations mean reducing the number of daily departing flights from 1000 to 600. Following the fire on the night of May 6th, the causes of which are still being investigated (see below), traffic had already been reduced with almost all low-cost airlines re-routed to Ciampino (in recent years, EasyJet had moved from Ciampino to Fiumicino and other low-cost companies including Veuling and Blue Panorama had also switched to the larger airport).

But even if this meant some 20,000 fewer passengers a day, it was not enough. The attorney general's office in Civitavecchia, which is handling the investigation, has also put under sequester the D quay, thereby eliminating from daily use the latter's 14 embarkation jetways, out of a total of 47. The attorney general's office believes that the fire might have left unacceptably high levels of particulate matter, including two types of dioxin. The main concern is not for passengers, who are in the airport for only a short time, but for airport workers. What is absurd, is that 35 days after the fire, Italy's health authorities don't seem able to decide whether the above is true or not.

In the meantime, Alitalia has announced that check-in all its flights will now take place at Terminal One. AdR has set up a task force to help passengers who arrive at the airport only to discover their flights have been cancelled. And airlines are being asked to text their passengers about changes in flight plans. There does not seem to be any problem for arriving passengers. I myself flew into Rome from London on June 3, and things were totally normal. My departure a week before was, instead, more complicated than usual. This was before the shutdown of D quay and nevertheless after checking in at Terminal One, I had to walk a considerable distance, take a shuttle bus to another departure gate, board at that gate, and get back on another bus that took the passengers out to the plane.

As far as is known, the fire broke out in the kitchen of an airport café. One story that is going around is that the short circuit that caused the fire came from a mobile air conditioning unit that had been placed in front of an electric power board that was believed to be overheating to cool it down. Cool it down? How about fixing it?

 

 

Lovely Trastevere one-bedroom PDF Print E-mail
Dec 06, 2014 at 12:19 PM

Image Lovely one-bedroom, second-floor apartment smack in the center of Trastevere availble for January and February. The aoartment is fully furnished, has large book-lined bedroom. fully-equipped kitchen and confortable living room.  Image

 

 

 

 

 

Contaqct the owner at .

 

 

 

 

Concordia leaves on its final voyage PDF Print E-mail
Jul 23, 2014 at 03:33 PM
ImageThis ship has (finally) sailed. This morning the wreck of the Costa Concordia giant cruise ship steamed slowly out of the gulf of Giglio Island off the Tuscan coast on it's final voyage to the port of Genoa where it will be dismantled. The sea journey is expected to take until Sunday and hopefully it will be uneventful. Residents of the island gathered on the shores to witness the final stage of the hulking ship's removal from the shoals where it ran aground over two years ago resulting in the death of 32 people.

The Concordia and a convoy of at least 10 vessels will pass through a large marine sanctuary, which extends from the Italian coast to Corsica. The ship will be preceded by a boat full of whale and dolphin watchers. If any marine mammals are seen, the convoy will slow down until they pass.

The departure of the ship was the high point, as well as the end, of a gigantic and extremely expensive internationally-managed salvage operation that began last September when the ship was righted and resumed earlier this month was it was re-floated last week.

An oil leak that occurred as the 105,000-tonne liner was taken off the reef and then raised in the water until fortunately did not delay things excessively. And as engineers continued to pump compressed air into 30 huge steel compartments attached on all sides to the hull of the ship, forcing out seawater and providing buoyancy, a series of decks that had been submerged since the accident gradually returned to view, including that with the ship's name, Costa Concordia, in giant blue letters. The final cost of salvaging and removing the cruise ship is likely to be $1.2 billion.

Once again, however, events involving the stricken cruise ship were somewhat tainted by the behavior of its former captain, Francesco Schettino, currently on trial for 32 counts of manslaughter and for abandoning ship, who just as the Costa Concordia was re-emerging from its briny grave, was photographed - smiling and suntanned - at a party on the island of Ischia. Shame on you, Captain Schettino. Shame on you.

Brava Italia! (and friends) PDF Print E-mail
Sep 18, 2013 at 10:12 AM

ImageAn international group of experts led by an Italian engineering team and Italy's civil protection agency yesterday successfully righted the Costa Concordia giant cruise ship in the first step of a complex project that will lead to its removal from the waters near the Italian island of Giglio, probably early next spring.

Ships' horns sounded and bystanders cheered at 4 a.m after a complicated, and potentially dangerous, 19 hour operation, which had been broadcast live, was happily concluded. The ship, which had been lying on its side on reefs since it sank on January 13, 2012, was rotated and lifted, by the use of inflatable tanks, onto an underwater platform with commands being issued remotely by a control center on shore.

The success of the first and most crucial stage of the Parbuckling Project as the plan devised by US and Italian companies (Titan Salvage is an American-owned specialist marine salvage and wreck removal company, part of the Crowley Group, and is a world leader in its field, Micoperi is a well-known Italian marine contractor with a long history as a specialist in underwater construction and engineering) will allow inspectors to search for the remains of two drowning victims (a total of 32 died) whose bodies were never recovered and, in later stages, to empty the 950 foot long ship, tow it and consign it to salvage.

Civil protection chief Franco Gabrielli said the side of the ship that had been underwater since the shipwreck was heavily damaged but possibly less so than had been thought. And Costa Cruise's project manager, Franco Porcellacchia, said that as far as could be seen, there was no evidence, "so far" of any environmental damage, one of the biggest fears before any action had been taken. Most of the fuel had been drained out of the ship months ago but there was concern that chemicals and other remaining substances could leak into the coastal waters.

The Italians, who handled the engineering parts of the multi-million dollar plan, were understandably proud of yesterday's success since the fatal shipwreck and the despicable behavior of its captain, Francesco Schettino (who goes on trial later this fall on charges of multiple manslaughter) had been considered a major embarrassment.

 

 

Tour buses a growing Roman problem PDF Print E-mail
Aug 17, 2013 at 06:29 PM
ImageWith their economy in tatters, Romans understandably are pleased that so many tourists have chosen Rome as their summer destination. But there are drawbacks. The downtown area - and now, increasingly, areas such as the Soho-like Trastevere, increasingly are invaded by hordes of  visitors, dutifully trailing along behind their tour guides. Restaurants catering primarily to tourists have broken with Italian mealtime traditions by staying open uninterruptedly from 12 noon to 12 midnight. And yet another problem is constituted by the mammoth tour buses that back up city traffic and that often park illegally on city streets, worsening air pollution by leaving their motors running for hours to keep air conditioning systems active. 
According to city regulations, no more than 300 of these buses - the Italians call them pullman - are supposed to be in Rome each day. But because of weekly, monthly and  yearly passes, that number is rarely kept to. Indeed, the 539 parking spaces designated for these vehicles - but in which they are supposed to park for a limited time only, generally only for 15 minutes - are insufficient with the result that many park in non-designated areas.  A survey done by the environmentalist organization, the Legambiente, showed that in recent weeks at least 40 percent of the buses parking on the Colle Oppio hill that overlooks the Coliseum, overstayed their allotted time. On one recent day, between 10:00 a.m. and 10:30 a.m., 64 tour buses were parked along the Via dei Fori Imperiali, the avenue that cuts through the forums and leads to the Coliseum. The study said that every 30 seconds a pullman drove by that monument, the real name of which is the Flavium Amphitheatre after the dynasty of Roman emperors that built it.
Even worse, it was recently discovered that many of these buses had counterfeit insurance certificates, at least some of which were manufactured by a Neapolitan company. This is taken particularly seriously since the tragic accident last month when a busload of Italian pilgrims  plunged off a viaduct, killing 36 outright and putting 11 others in the hospital. The bus had been inspected fairly recently prior to the accident but reportedly was falling apart in the moments before it went off the road.
Rome's traffic police have not been idle, however.  Since the beginning of July, they have inspected 819 tourist buses, discovered hundreds of violations, levying fines and withdrawing numerous permits.
Concordia wreckage still looms in Mediterranean, 18 months later PDF Print E-mail
Aug 01, 2013 at 04:14 PM

ImageAs Italians begin their long awaited summer vacation, residents of, and visitors to, beautiful Giglio island, are not at all happy. A year and a half after the massive Costa Concordia cruise liner foundered on its rocks, killing 32 people, the gigantic wreck is still lying on its side in the surrounding Mediterranean gulf. The original schedule called for its removal this September, and its dismantlement in either the port of Civitavecchia or that of Piombino, but it now appears that summer tides may prove too dangerous for the operation and that nothing may be done until early next year. 

The trial of captain Francesco Schettino began in July but was adjourned until September because of a one-day lawyers? strike. Five other people - four crew members and one company official -- were convicted for their role in the disaster after pleading guilty but their sentences were relatively light. So at the moment, people are thinking more about the effect of the shipwreck on the sea and the shoreline.

Despite the unceasing efforts of engineers working on the shipwreck, says Franco Gabrielli, director if Italy's Civil Protection Agency, it is still unclear to what extent the rocks on which the ship foundered are penetrating the hull and what is the overall condition of the ship's structure. One side of the ship, that hidden below the water, has never been seen or viewed by cameras and it is unclear what dangers there might be to local waters from substances inside. The fuel was pumped out of the ship shortly after its foundering on January 13, 2012, but there may be potentially dangerous detergents, rotting foods, and spoiling liquids that could create problems.

The mayor of Giglio, Sergio Ortelli, does not agree, saying that it would be equally risky to keep the 112,000 ton relic in the same position. If the 290 meter long Concordia were to become further embedded in the coastal rocks, it could become increasingly difficult to find a solution. Two bodies are yet to be recovered, so there are also mourning family members to think of.
And then, of course, there is the economic side. Last year, tourism in Giglio was down close to 30 percent and although some of this may have been due to the general economic downturn, many tourists may have decided they didn't want to be looking daily at this scene of destruction and death.

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