Tuscany is One Place Where I’d Nix Airport Expansion

Tuscany is girding for a fight, and my trip there last September puts me in the camp against a plan to expand Siena’s Airport. The NY Times had the story today.

“Plans to bring the historic Italian city of Siena into the jet age with the expansion of its small airport are being contested by an embattled group of citizens who say that Siena is doing fine, just as it is.

The last thing these locals seem to want is an additional half-million-odd tourists that the backers of the airport predict would be landing in Siena by 2020. Tourism is already thriving, the nay-sayers contend, with more than a million visitors coming by land each year, many drawn to the action of Siena’s colorful horse race, the Palio.

They don’t want the construction of new terminals, parking lots and infrastructure to serve the airport’s increased capacity, and they fear that more tourists would only lead to more large-scale enterprises, like outlet malls or hotel chains. They are also worried about the noise, the pollution and the impact that the airport could have on the surrounding countryside, a blend of medieval churches, castles and hamlets nestled within natural reserves, forests and farmlands.

Progress cannot be measured only in terms of raising gross domestic product, said Luciano Fiordoni, an economist who spoke at a recent anti-airport rally in Siena. “You have to factor in quality of life,” he said. “We don’t object to growth, but our main intent is to remain human.”