Europe ’14: Florence to Lipari

We travelled from Rome to experience Florence and some of its surrounds.

Like inner Rome, central Florence is based around narrow streets unsuitable for large trucks and buses. Consequently, many of the city’s public buses are around 25 seaters and are electrically powered from battery storage. Most of the streets and lanes are for one way traffic. Around the major tourist sites many of the lanes are reserved for pedestrian use. Florence also has a recently constructed light rail train that is confined to a few of the wide boulevards. Service vehicles, such as garbage trucks and postal delivery vans are scaled down to fit into the narrow streets.[teaserbreak] We travelled from Rome by the VFT that reached 300kph and Covered the 284 kms to Florence in about 90 minutes. Whilst staying in Florence we visited nearby Pisa and Lucca on the slower regional trains that still reached 144kph. Patrons of the Canberra to Sydney train eat your heart out. Purchasing tickets for these trains is quick and easy using the multilingual machines that accept most credit cards.

Florence has a large rental bicycle fleet and the walled city of Lucca is ideal for cycling using the hire bikes available from many outlets.

On our VFT trips we saw abundant evidence of solar power. Solar hot water is commonplace in Italy and some of the units look decades old. Solar panels are seen on domestic premises, hotels and factories. We passed several solar farms out in the fields.

After our sojourn in Florence we departed Rome, once more, for Naples, just a stopover for our eventual destination of the island of Lipari. We boarded our roll on roll off ferry at one of Naples’ wharves. The ferry was flanked by two enormous cruise liners probably destined for Venice. The ferry carried trucks, cars and passengers for Sicily or the aeolian islands it passed on the way. All our stops were handled with the precision one would expect in a nation with such a strong maritime history.

The buses on the two islands we visited, Lipari and Salina, are diesel powered but small enough to cope with the narrow windy roads made necessary by the volcanic terrain. Residents and tourists alike island hop and travel to Sicily by hydrofoil ferries of a similar type used on Sydney harbour a few decades ago. With little seaweed to foul their wings they make the journeys much quicker than conventional ferries.

Lipari is a hot island but the houses are relatively cool thanks to thick walls, narrow streets, and extensive use of awnings. Some streets are closed to vehicular traffic during the popular restaurant hours of 7 to midnight. In this period, restauranteurs drag tables on to the cobbled streets. The carbon footprint of most food is small as Sicily is rich in seafood and its rich volcanic soil is well tended and grows all vegetables and olives.

Solar panels are starting to appear on lipari’s newer buildings.

Motor scooters are very popular on Lipari but the terrain discourages cyclists. Those on scooters rarely wear helmets and never have them strapped on. Road rules are loosely interpreted and we saw lots of vehicles that wouldn’t pass rego in Australia. Goods are mainly delivered to the shops on 3 wheeled mini utilities that have handle bars, not steering wheels and appear to be powered by two stroke engines.

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