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Why it’s good to wander…

One of the very best aspects of being married to my wife is that she shares my basic theory of travel: if you don’t have anywhere to be, you might as well wander aimlessly and see what interesting things you encounter. Which is how we found ourselves exploring Perugia’s new form of public transport, the Mini Metro.

Perugia, like many Umbrian towns, is on a hill. A big, tall hill crowded with very old buildings. It’s not easy to catch a taxi in town, or drive your own car. And the town’s government would like to encourage you to leave your car somewhere down at the base of the mountain and use public transport to explore the town. So they’ve offered an unusual range of transport options to make this more appealing. In a few places around the town, you’ll discover escalators, which lead to a series of underground tunnels and then to more escalators. They’re designed to make the near-vertical hill more manageable to walkers.

And now there’s the mini-metro. It’s quite new – indeed, the locals tend to give directions in terms of bus lines, instead of suggesting you use the Metro. But it’s absolutely adorable – little silver trams, with bright red interiors, running on a red track that cuts through hillsides, ducks through tunnels, over city streets and descends from the top of Perugia down to its suburbs. Each carriage can fit about 20 people, and they’re independent of one another – it feels more like an airport shuttle than a proper metro.

(The Mini Metro appears to be the first of its kind, a project by Leitner Ropeways, an Italian company best known for its ski lift equipment. It looks like a lovely, slick, eco-friendly solution for public transport in towns that are really too small to have proper public transit. I want one in Pittsfield, MA whether we need one or not.)

So we paid our tickets and took the metro to its furthest stop, a vast parking complex on the outskirts of town. I’d figured this was an attempt to get people to drive in from the suburbs, park their cars and take the new metro in. Actually, it’s a more clever dual use than that – it’s the parking lot for the local football stadium. And the presence of hundreds of men (and perhaps a dozen women and children) in red and white suggested that a game might be about to break out.

Because travel’s all about seizing opportunities, we shouldered our way into the line and purchased tickets in the cheap seats – the Curva Nord – received tickets printed with barcodes and our names, copied from our IDs. I figured this level of ticketing complexity – plus the man-trap style turnstiles complete with barcode readers – implied a orderly and regulated football environment.

Nope. Welcome to the terraces. Our assigned seats – a fiction at best – were right in the heart of the passionate local cheering section. It’s not the best place to watch the niceties of football, but it’s a damned fine way to get a sense for what it might be like to be a fan of Italian Serie C football. Right after we’d mastered our first “Allez Perugia! Allez Forza Grifo!” cheer, our striker booted a quick, clean shot past the Sergiovese keeper – the only score of the game – and the crowd went appropriately, expressively, extremely politely nuts. For a bunch of drunk, stoned football fans, they were extremely welcoming to a bunch of Americans, including one big, balding guy who has a tendency to yell at bad calls in angry, Boston-accented English.

We stayed a half, bought ourselves a pair of Perugia football scarves, and took the Mini Metro off to the next adventure. Thanks, Perugia, it’s been good fun. Time to get back to the land of the Red Sox.

6 thoughts on “Why it’s good to wander…”

  1. Pingback: Boulder Carbon Tax Tracker » links for 2008-04-14

  2. Nice, it is very nice that you publish news about Perugia & Umbria within your blog. And especially about the new Mini Metro. Thank you from a “Perugino” living in Switzerland, but going back to his town each time it is interesting to see again what is new there ! Kind regards from Mario Ferrini.

  3. Hi Ethan Zuckerman,

    I live in Perugia near the fabulous minimetro.
    Sorry for my english in advance.

    I’ll happy if you be my guest for a Weekend the next time that you’ll visit perugia.
    My bedroom exhibits in from of minimetro’s rails.
    At about 6.0am this fantastic public transports wake me up, and I’m ready to go at work that starts at 9.0am. I’ve 3 hour free , isn’t fantastic???

    I think that you haven’t seen all about minimetro, or the town?s government haven’t shown you!!!

    There’are a lot of people that live near the minimetro’s rails. We are uncomfortable with the noise.

    The minimetro produce continuous loud sounds, from it starts until it stops.
    I’m living a nightmare, I’m not free to sleep anymore.
    I ensure you that this noise is the first of its kind, it’s different from the noise of the traffic.
    It’s like a twist in you side.

    I’m waiting for a replay.
    Thanks from your respect.


  4. Thanks for the offer, Simone – it would be interesting to see what the minimetro looks like from the perspective of someone who lives near it.

    To be very clear – I am commenting only as a visitor to your beautiful city, someone who thought the metro was clean, efficient and opened up part of the town I otherwise never would have seen. I understand from friends in Perugia that there was a great deal of controversy over the project – I know nothing about that except what my friends have told me.

    My comment is simply that of a visitor who had a good experience with the system.

  5. Hi Ethan,

    My think is not a controversy or politic controversy over the project or something like this.
    I’m not against minimetro project, I’m fighting to get back my house. Actually I can’t live in my house. they are throwing out from my house.
    I want only live easy in my house, And not fight against minimetro!!!


    But like all the people that don’t listen you can’t believe me.

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