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February 16, 2010
So when will the new tram begin running? Florence's promised light rail system was so intriguing: the new bridge devoted to it, the planting of tiny flowering succulents -- so Italian --between the rails. The way the workmen absented themselves from it for months on end, only to appear suddenly by the score, working feverishly, as if the opening were tomorrow. Then they would disappear again. I was told this had a lot to do with the election cycle.

Boh, would come the answer, the whole time we lived in Florence. "Boh" is a wonderful all-purpose Italian word, the kind of word every language should possess, a word which can mean anything from Who knows? to What do I care? to What did you expect? to Well, if you didn't want to go to Pistoia, you shouldn't have gotten on the bus.

It had been discussed for decades. 2008 was its target start date, and then 2009 passed away. I thought it might just never happen, but it has: the tramvia is actually up and running. The tramvia has been to Florence what the Second Avenue Subway is to New York: basically, a dream. It has been delayed for so long that its planned stop near the Duomo has collided with a more recent ordinance prohibiting vehicular traffic there altogether. Now they're thinking of running it underneath.

Now you can actually ride a leg of it, free, all this week. I got a little emailed video of it easing away along the tracks, along with a still photo of patient Florentine straphangers, all packed together like their cousins in New York. The train itself is Italian, of course, and therefore elegant as all getout, streamlined and sleek, gleaming as it glides along the steel rails.

Maybe there will be a Second Avenue Subway. Or maybe not. Boh.
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