The Morning After

The city loves its old cobblestone streets and alleys enough to clean them like a kitchen floor each morning; it also puts up with the students who foul those streets at night.

URBINO, Italy – It’s 5 a.m. in Urbino. Broken glass and scattered trash litter the streets and alleyways of the piazza. Flyers float with a bobbing beer bottle in the fountain. The stairs along the cafes are sticky and reek of alcohol.

As the sun rises, so do the faithful employees of the Marche Multiservizi.

Like a roll of thunder, the first street sweeper can be heard rumbling into the Piazza della Repubblica at the crack of dawn.

By 6 a.m. the streets are busy with sweeper vehicles sucking up trash and leaving behind trails of cleansing water. An employee sprays down stairs near the cafes, careful not to miss a spot. Another, using a leaf blower and wearing a mask, whooshes debris into the path of the sweeper.

Draining dirty water

A Marche Multiservizi employee drains dirty water from a sweeper.

The teams of employees work to make the city brand new again after the previous night’s activities.

With 15,700 inhabitants and over 15,000 students attending University of Urbino, cleaning the filth left on the 500-year-old cobblestone streets every morning can be a particularly daunting task.

Lorenzo Tempesta, vice mayor of Urbino, acknowledges there is a littering problem in Urbino, but most people take care of their trash.

“I know that young people want to enjoy and have fun at parties, but this does not mean that you have to throw bottles on the street and dirty the square where you are,” Tempesta said. People who litter show that they do not care for other people who live there, he said. “It seems a lack of civic pride, a lack of love towards what’s yours and what’s public.”

Roberto Perugini, an employee of Marche Multiservizi, said if everyone did their part, the mess wouldn’t be as bad. “If someone wants to get drunk, then they should throw the bottle away in the bin. There should be more participation by people.”

People are drunk, so they kick them and they will fall. The wine will go, and you will smell it on Friday morning. You can feel it when you walk, like glue.

Since most students go home over the weekend, Thursday night is usually the big night to go out and have fun. This means a surplus of people in the main piazza, and an excess of liter there.

Alessandro Fusco, a student at the University of Urbino, said that by 2 or 3 a.m. on Thursday night, “the peak of the night,” the garbage and recycling bins overflow. Students stop using the bins, and the ground and steps of the Piazza become littered with bottles, some still filled with alcohol.

“People are drunk, so they kick them and they will fall. The wine will go, and you will smell it on Friday morning,” Fusco said. “You can feel it when you walk, like glue.”

Bottles in fountain

Roberto Perugini picks bottles off the fountain edge in the Piazza.

Filipo Andrea Grassi, another student at the University of Urbino, said most students litter because they know people are hired to clean in the morning.

These people are the employees of Marche Multiservitzi, a company that works for the region of Le Marche in Italy. Urbino has a 10-year contract with Marche Multiservitzi. This year the city will discuss renewing its contract. Vice Mayor Tempesta said the company works very hard, but has room to improve. He said the city plans to renew the contract, but situations have changed since 2002 so officials have to change some programs to make a more suitable plan for the following years.

For example, Tempesta said that Le Marche has hundreds of cities and towns, and it is difficult to find a hygienic system suitable for the entire area. Each town has its own set of demands. It is difficult to keep one organization consistent for each town. They are also working to increase recycling and make people more aware by using media outlets such as television, newspapers, and advertisements.

Tempesta said 45 percent of people recycle in Urbino, and 90 percent of that recycled litter is reused.

“I wish that everything will be better, that people will understand the importance of recycling and most of all the number of people recycling increases,” Tempesta said.

Meanwhile, as another day begins, uniformed employees of the Marche Multiservizi are walking with a broom and dustpan to sweep the cracks and crevices where the machines could not reach. The cleanup is done without resentment. It’s simply part of living a sustainable life of beauty in this Italian Renaissance city.

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About Elizabeth Zabel

When I applied for this trip, I knew I was getting into a once in a lifetime opportunity. I was not, however, aware of what kind of opportunity it really was. My experience here in Urbino has been one of a kind. Being forced into an unfamiliar culture and language, and more importantly working in it, has taught me not only lessons on being a professional journalist, but also about aspects of life and culture that I could not have learned anywhere else. My professors and peers have taught me more in a month than I could have learned in my entire college career. It has been challenging, frustrating, and physically and mentally draining, but all the while: so totally worth it.