Rome, the Eternal City, is nearly 2,700 years old. It has seen emperors and popes come and go and revolutions rise and fall, but it seems the arrival of LED street lighting is a little too much for some Roman residents to stomach.
Rome has a particular ambiance at night, it is the feeling of centuries of history, ancient architecture, copious amounts of good food and wine and the seductive Mediterranean climate coming together.
The hue cast by Rome’s yellow sodium streetlights also has a role to play in creating this beguiling atmosphere, fixtures that are currently being replaced by white LED lamps, leading to accusations that Rome’s magic is being tampered with and thrown out with the bath water.
About 100,000 LED lamps have already been installed, just over half of all the fixtures that the authorities plan to change in a project that has cost about $52 million so far, but that is expected to save Romans millions of euros in electricity bills.
Parts of Rome are a dark and a treacherous jumble of cobbles and steps , something that will be made safer with better lighting. The authorties responsible for the LED project also claim that a warmer tone of light is being used in the city centre, a decision taken after meeting with cultural experts.
However, the city is mobilising against LED and a local residents’ group, Vivere Trastevere, is urging residents to place a candle in their windows as a silent protest against the new lighting.
Residents have also been taking to social media to make their displeasure known.
The old lights and the new ones are a ‘candlelit dinner versus the frozen-food aisle of you local grocery store,’ Elizabeth Minchill, an American resident of Rome wrote on Facebook.
Another local resident told the New York Times, ‘Illumination is atmosphere, the people that are doing this are assassins of the beauty of Rome.’
There have also been complaints that the cast iron tops of some of the older incandescent fixtures have been re-designed to look more ‘modern’.
Other’s say that it not how you visually perceive the city that matters, it is the way you live the Roman life that counts. Some say that Rome is beautiful no matter what light it is captured in.
The majority of major cities around the globe have turned to LED in recent years in order to reduce electricity bills, with Los Angeles being one of the biggest converts.
However, a city like LA does not have the aesthetic and historical concerns that Rome has to to deal with, where every step into the future has to be weighed upon the effect that it may have on preserved advances of the past.