Urban Planning 101

One thing you immediately notice about Italian and Sicilian towns is the focus on the town square: a large, centrally located area, often with a fountain, or a statue, or some other attractive feature, or perhaps a combination of all three, where people can gather. In every town we’ve visited, we’ve been drawn to these squares, like this one in Ortigia. And the central feature of the square doesn’t need to be ancient, either. The impressive fountain above, for example, was built in the 20th century.

Italians and Sicilians understand the importance of the town square. Somewhere along the way their American counterparts seem to have forgotten that lesson. Ortigia is not a huge town, but it has several beautiful squares like this one. How many American towns or cities do?

If I were an American city planner, I would spend a lot more time thinking about squares, statues, and parks and how to get local philanthropists to contribute toward their construction. These kinds of spaces help to knit the community together.

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