Scala Mobile

Last blog I was complaining about my beloved Orvieto and this week, I’m afraid I’m going to be poking fun at it.  I promise that I’ll spend the next 2 weeks finding something very positive to say or — as my mother tried in vain to teach me — I’ll say nothing at all.

Scala mobile means “moving staircase” – or an escalator.

The tops of hillside towns are the old, interesting part – the part you came to Italy to see — and since they were built centuries ago, the idea of accommodating cars wasn’t in their original design.  Therefore, many towns have parking lots just outside or below the old center and transport you up via their scale mobili (plural).  Spoletto and Perugia, for instance, have wonderfully convenient systems.

As you see from the masthead picture, Orvieto sits on its high plateau, and since parking is definitely at a premium, we have a very nice parking lot at the base of the wall.

The lot has this level and then 2 below it.

The lot has this level and then 2 below it.

As you leave the lot, you see right in front of you

Steps from lot

steps leading to the the scale mobili.  As you get closer, you see the sign on one escalator saying “scala fuori servizio”….

Some move, some don't.

Some move, some don’t.

….meaning it’s out of order.  People here swear that sign appeared the day after they took the wrappings off the system.  Fortunately, it’s the down one.  You glide up.

When you get to the top, you turn slightly left and there’s another escalator – much longer – and UNfortunately, that scala fuori servizio sign is on the UP stairs.  You walk up the 38 steps that the builders had the incredible foresight to include next to the escalator.

Down only.

Down only.

You turn to the right and there in front of you is a less steep moving walkway (have not seen this word in Italian).  AND, it works!

The overhead lights don't function, but the little green moving walkway lights do.

The overhead lights don’t function, but the little green moving walkway lights do.

Then you come to 12 wide, shallow steps.  It’s not that these are difficult, it’s just that they’re so unexpected when you were promised scale mobili. And they definitely do not move.

Do not ask why they chose this instead of moving walkway.

Do not ask why they chose this instead of a moving walkway.

Next, you think you’ll have a reprieve with another working moving walkway, but at least last week, it was not working AND they hadn’t gotten around to warning you about it – perhaps because all their signs said scala fuori servizio and this was a non-functioning walkway.  Or perhaps they just hoped we were smart enough to figure out for ourselves that there was no movement.

Notice that the overhead lights work, but the green light on the walkway doesn't.  I guess that should have been my first clue.

Notice that the overhead lights work, but the green light on the walkway doesn’t. I guess that should have been my first clue that I should start walking.

Then there’s a REALLY long escalator, up only — which is the only direction you care about because this will definitely be a long climb if ever the scala mobile is fuori servizio.  For your return, you have to use the stairs, but at least that old friend, gravity, works with you, not against you.

You're getting closer.

You’re getting closer.

And finally – the LAST escalator!!!  You did it!!!!  And it only took slightly less than 5 minutes.

Last one!  Finally -- sunlight at the top!

Last one! Sunlight at the top!

Your prize for this adventure is that when you finally arrive at ground level, you exit into my piazza, which you might recall from my last blog, I said could — at best — be described as “charmless”.

It may be charmless, but it's mine.

It might be charmless, but it’s mine.


….you could have read the signs more carefully when exiting the parking lot at the bottom and turned right to go to the ascensori, which means ELEVATORS.

You could have saved yourself a lot of time.

You would have saved yourself a lot of time.

No – they’re not nearly as easy to find because they’re tucked away in what looks very much like a cave, but time to the top:  10 seconds.

However, then you wouldn’t have an amusing Orvieto story to tell when you got home, and what fun would that be?!!



3 thoughts on “Scala Mobile

  1. Susan, I love your blogs. It makes me want to spend time there more than ever, even with the long climbs. So glad the weather is improving – have a wonderful time, and keep blogging – the photos are beautiful and second best to actually being there. Sue Lunger

  2. You must have ESP! Just today we were headed up from the parking lot when I got the bright idea to go for the escalators, instead of the boring old elevator. Jim kept grousing about how inconvenient it was going to be, but allowed himself to be persuaded. I, too, made a joke about the first “fuori servizio” sign, but of course there was no warning about how many others there would be before we would reach the top. Today there were even fewer working elements than you describe, so of course Jim was right. On the other hand, after all that virtuous climbing, i decided I deserved to reward myself with a gelato. (But if we all did that for every out-of-order sign encountered in Orvieto, we’d probably bust any escalatiors that were still working.) Jim said that our situation would make a funny blog post, and he was right:YOU ALREADY DID IT! BRAVA!

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