Black weekend in Italy


(eTN) – This year Italy is staying cool. Temperatures are low, and it has been raining a lot. Even in Rome, July temperatures have never been so low since nearly 30 years ago.

Last weekend, the grand exodus started, and Italians began hitting the road, with the highest traffic intensity of the year. In preparation, the Italian Traffic Police and ANAS (Italy’s National Autonomous Roads Corporation) developed a kind of marshall plan. In order to avoid endless blocked roads and traffic jams, the plan foresaw that from July 1 through August 31, the daily road closures, which normally number 140, were reduced down to just 13 closures.

Furthermore, over 2,140 video cameras have been installed to aid in traffic control on Italian roads and the Autostrade (highways). Additionhally, a brand new 24-hour traffic radio – INFOTRAFFICO H24 – developed together
with RTL 102.5 (live Italian TV), trasmits radio web information with live traffic information 24 hours a day. This new system operated under ViaRadio Digital is a broadcast service available via the Internet, Punto Blu, Smartphones, and mobile phones in an effort to keep drivers alert to traffic updates.

Traffic information is collected by a call center, which has direct access to the newly-installed 2,140 telecameras and 1,171 panels indicating real times and detours to avoid traffic jams and long hours waiting at toll stations. An additional 1,000 webcams have been installed, which can be downloaded on smartphones and cell phones.

Six million flyers were printed for Italian road runners with information on how to use the new traffic facilities and technologies.

After the “Black Weekend,” from July 29 through August 7, 2011, there will be “Red Weekend,” from August 20-28, when everybody returns and one would be wise to simply stay away from the Autostrade, if at all possible.

It is expected that 33.2 million Italians, which is 55% percent of the population, will be going on holiday. Even the crises cannot not stop them – perhaps its only effect being that holidays will be shortened by one day. Seventy eight percent of Italians plan to stay and travel within Italy, said Bernabo Bocca, President of the Italian Federations.

Why is road traffic such an issue this year? Due to a fire in Rome at the second largest railway station of Tiburtina in the early morning hours 2 Sundays ago, railway service all over Italy was severly affected, causing long delays, train cancellations, and high-speed trains (such as the Frecciarossa) having to run slowly along regional tracks. Commuters to Rome were packing themselves onto any train that passed by, squeezing hundreds into first-class compartments on international trains. The destroyed great parts of the electronic and technical Master Station of the newly-built Stazione Tiburtina, slowing high-speed, regional, and local trains.

The fire happened to occur when the water supply had been cut to this part of Rome, which caused additional problems to the fire brigade, causing even greater disruption to railway service all over Italy.

Even more difficulties have been reported about theft on the train tracks, as well as an investigation by Procura di Roma into the theft of copper from the Master Station.

Still yet another reason for the increase in traffic this year is due to the enormous fare being charged by ferries going to Sardinia – fares increased by as much as 70 percent. For many years, going to Sardinia by ferry with one’s own car was a very popular way to travel to the beautiful island in the Meditterrean. But now, many families who have been going to Sardinia for the last 20 years, have decided to stay on the continent and go south to such areas as Puglia.

“This summer, we have hardly any Italians arriving,” confirmed hotelier Gianni Gallia from Lantana Resort in Sardegna, “With the raise of the passage on the ferries on April 1, 2011, we lost a great deal of our domestic markets; it is far to expensive to come over by car now,” he added.

Thankfully, this spring there is a new form of tourism coming to Sardinia. Due to ongoing crises in Northern Africa, Egypt, Libya, etc., cruise ships have discovered the port Cagliari, the capital in the South of Sardinia.
Unfortunatly, however, passengers that are arriving by the thousands each week from all over the world, are not leaving any money, complained the shopkeepers.

They did say that the cruise ships have put Cagliari, only 250 km away from Africa and Tunisia, back on the map – and that is good.