On the streets of the ancient Maritime Republic of Genoa, we discover the chance to drive a shared car. We become aware: by transforming the modern symbol of consumerism into a public service, we give our contribution to the development of eco-sustainable mobility.
Just like other car sharing users (www.carsharing.net), we book our car when we need it in a car-park of our choice among the available ones, where we will return it once we've finished with it. Supported by Legambiente, the most widespread environmental organisation in Italy (www.legambiente.it) and by Iniziativa Car Sharing (www.icscarsharing.it), the project counts 15,000 members in Italy (www.carsharingitala.com), where it is also active in Bologna, Brescia, Florence, Milan, Modena, Palermo, Parma, Rome, Savona, Turin and Venice.
Step 1: Caruggi
Genoa's historical centre is a cobweb of narrow roads called caruggi and has Medieval and Baroque origins. Remains of the city walls can be seen around the cathedral of St. Lawrence; The Piazza De Ferrari is the heart of the modern town, sung uncensored by its poets and songwriters. Genoa's soul cannot be captured without listening to Fabrizio De André's libertarian music. One of his best known songs was inspired by the irreducible people met in Via Del Campo. Here, we visit his good friend Gianni Tassio's record shop (www.giannitassio-viadelcampo.it), where the songwriter's legendary Esteve guitar, bought at an auction with the help of his fellow Genoese, is displayed. The proceeds were donated to Italian organisation Emergency (www.emergency.it), and were used to build a hospital in Sierra Leone.
There are 34 car parks where you can find a Genova Car Sharing vehicle (www.genovacarsharing.it). When we signed the contract, we were handed a Smart Card with a PIN code to book the car and collect it. In Via Del Campo we found out that De André is buried in the Staglieno Monumental Cemetery, almost 3km away. We find the two nearest cars in front of number 1 of Via Gramsci. We swipe the Smart Card in front of the reader on the windscreen to unlock the doors. We enter the PIN code and start the engine.
We add the usage fee, whose amount depends on the time and the number of kilometres travelled, to the 180€ of the annual membership card (50€ for the quarterly subscription). For the Fiat Panda we have chosen, the fee is 2.20€ per hour (at night 0.93€) and 0.55€ per km if we travel less than 100km in one day; 0.24€ if we exceed 300km. We could choose between Fiat Punto, Doblò, Multipla, Ducato, 500; Opel Astra, Toyota Prius. With these cars we are allowed to use reserved lanes, access traffic-restricted areas and park for free even in pay parking areas.
Step 2: The Mediterranean
The symbols of Genoa all look upon the Mediterranean: the Lantern, the 120m medieval lighthouse, which can be seen from a distance of over 30km, and the old harbour, restored by Renzo Piano in 1992 for the 500th anniversary of the discovery of America by Genoese Christopher Columbus. The strong point of this restyling is the Bigo: a gigantic loading crane that emerges from the water.
After visiting the Aquarium (www.acquariodigenova.it), we walk to the car sharing parking space in Piazza Bandiera, at the junction with Via Bellucci. We drive for 5km to the seaside neighbourhood of Boccadasse, located at the easternmost part of Corso Italia, which gets its name from the shape of the bay that reminds of a donkey's mouth. It is from here that Genoese emigrants set for Buenos Aires, where they rebuilt their community in the Boca quarter.
When we get back on the car, we realise that we are running out of fuel. No problem: with the Fuel Card we find on the dashboard, we can refuel free of charge. In fact, all of the car's fixed expenses i.e., insurance, maintenance, taxes, are charged to the car-sharing company. We realise that, if we share a car and stop considering it as a consumer good, its cost will only depend on the use we make.
Step 3: Slow food
From Piazza De Ferrari we walk to the car-sharing parking space in Piazza Sarzano, located at the corner with Stradone Sant’Agostino. 8 km to reach Nervi, the residential neighbourhood in the eastern suburb of Genoa. The lovely Anita Garibaldi promenade is dominated by the 16th century Gropallo Tower standing tall on the cliff. We drive for other 35 km and park in the enchanting village of Portofino (www.portofino.it). It's summer, so we don't miss the opportunity of diving into the San Fruttuoso bay to admire the Christ of the Abyss: a bronze statue placed in the sea at 15m depth in 1954.
We start feeling hungry, so we leave the coastline and head for the village of Ne, where we find a typical Italian trattoria, La Brinca (www.labrinca.it), considered to be one of the best restaurants in Liguria by Slow Food (www.slowfood.it), a non-profit organisation for the protection of typical cuisine and local food traditions, according to which the meal is the greatest opportunity for meeting and sharing. The trenette al pesto and the cima alla genovese are pure poetry of Ligurian cuisine.
Back to Genoa, the taste of satisfaction in our mouths disappears when we read the plaque dedicated to Gaetano Alimonda, a cardinal. Here, on the 20th July 2001, a young man was killed by the police while protesting for a better future during the G8 summit. Over the following months, passers-by would keep erasing the official name of the plaque and replace it with Piazza Carlo Giuliani, ragazzo (boy). Taking the streets at twenty must have seemed almost a duty in a town looking east upon the immense sea that unites and has never divided For us that we have only shared a car, imagining with anger a world more just and eco-sustainable is an obligation.
By Federico Gurgone