The gut reaction we all have after a trauma is the shy away from the threat and from the world. Terrorism is a heinous act, but it doesn’t stop with just one act or with a few casualties. The intended impact of these attacks on the cities we call home is to disrupt and devastate us on every level. Fear, anger and confusion spreads, affecting all of those it touches and slowly closing up our confidence and challenging our everyday lives.
For every city that has been rocked over the past few years, it is the culture, freedom and chaos that make it what it is. It seems fitting then that in Italy the foundations of its landmark cities are being transformed with concrete barriers popping up following the terror attack in Barcelona last Thursday proving that, even in the face of crisises, we are still cultural, hopeful and united.
Major tourist sites in Milan, Rome, Bologna and Turin are all stepping up security in pedestrianised areas. Although Italy has not suffered any attacks on its territory there have been repeated warnings by Isis that the country is on its hit list.
In Milan, concrete barriers appeared over the weekend in the streets leading up to the city’s main piazza which houses its famous cathedral. Streets leading up to the adjacent Galleria Vittorio Emanuele – the spectacular 19th-century shopping arcade – also had the structures installed.
Bologna and Turin put protective barriers in place to separate vehicles and pedestrians this weekend. In Bologna, security has been tightened around the Basilica of San Petronio. The church has been the target of several jihadi plots because it houses a 15th-century fresco by the artist Giovanni da Modena which depicts the prophet Mohammed being tortured by devils. Busy central streets in Palermo, Sicily’s capital, are also due to get new protective barricades and the city council of Florence said it was looking into installing similar structures. In Genoa and Naples, police patrols were stepped up.
On Sunday, Italian media reported that concrete blocks will protect the entrance to Via del Corso, Rome’s main shopping street and Via dei Fori Imperiali, the avenue that runs through central Rome from the Piazza Venezia to the Colosseum. Concrete blocks are already in place on the Via della Conciliazione, the main road leading to St Peter’s square.
In response to the Barcelona attack, Italian interior minister Marco Minniti said last week:
“I am amazed that a van could have driven undisturbed down La Ramblas in Barcelona.
“It is strange there were not extra security measures in a site so crowded with tourists and residents.”
Italy has embarked on a robust anti-terror strategy in recent years, which has included more than 6,000 troops deployed on the streets, increased surveillance of the country’s Muslim population and expulsions of non-nationals deemed a security risk. Since the start of 2015, 202 people have been deported in line with the policy.