Como: Utopia in the Italian Alps
The Ecotopia 2121 Project details the futures of 100 cities across the globe as though they've somehow solved all social and environmental problems to become super-ecofriendly. This month, we highlight the future of the Italian city of Como.
(For an Italian-language review of the Ecotopia 2121 project, see National Geographic Italia)
Como is a city of 90,000 people located on the scenic shores of Lake Como in the northernmost province of Italy. It’s a very old city. Around the 1st Century BC it became subject to rule by Rome. At the time, the town center was situated on the nearby hills but was moved to its current location by order of Julius Caesar who had the swamp near the south end of the lake drained before ordering the construction of a walled city in typical Roman grid pattern.
Caesar’s city walls are now mere ruins but the town of Como is quite a delight -- nestled in between a lake and the Italian Alps. However, this splendor belies the toxic nature of the lake water. Although a clear azure blue in tone, Lake Como is actually an unhealthy microbe-infested danger zone; the water unsafe for drinking or swimming. Unwary lake-goers can soon suffer a spate of health problems after any contact with Lake Como’s water. The provincial government has blamed this sad state of affairs on unrestricted second-home housing developments, especially for the nouveau riche wanting to show off. These luxury domestic residences pump their untreated sewerage into the lake.
One favorite pastime for the new Como residents is to cruise around the lake on lavish yachts. However, in 2121, on one early evening sojourn, a party yacht runs into a floating log, gets punctured, and capsizes. Nobody drowns, they’re only meters away from the shore, but one of them, a superstar model of world fame, suffers a chronic facial rash that never entirely fades. Forced out of the modeling business, she retires to team-up with environmentalists and then press for ecological change.
For Como 2121, this means a two thousand year old planning blunder by Caesar is reversed. The swampland is redeveloped so as the act as a natural filter for the city’s sewage, and the town is resurrected as it was pre-Caesar, on the alpine hills nearby.