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Welcome to Genoa, a beautiful port city in the north of Italy.
It's a very vertical city, built on a lot of hills.
So many hills, in fact, that the city has several funicular railways and elevators
tunnelled through the rock, shortcuts that get around
miles of twisty, congested roads or thousands of stairs.
And the strangest one of these is the Ascensore Castello d'Albertis Montegalleto.
Or: the castle elevator.
Years ago, you'd have to walk through 300m of tunnel yourself to reach the lift,
but now, if you start at the bottom,
an odd little square box comes to pick you up.
It looks a bit like a regular elevator car, only going horizontally.
You get on, it takes you the 300 metres through the rock,
past some control equipment and then,
after a bit of shunting around with another box that's headed the other way...
It goes vertically,
right up to the castle at the top of the hill.
Now you might think, that's a great idea in theory,
it's like a Star Trek turbolift, but surely that's dangerous?
And I say that wearing a red shirt.
Elevators need to have all sorts of protection systems
so one bad cable can't snap and cause disaster.
How can they possibly make one that has all that protection
when it's got to detach itself and move off?
The answer is: they can't. Because that's not what it's doing.
And in hindsight, the solution is kind of obvious:
there are two separate systems here.
It's the same hack that Disney use for the Tower of Terror at their theme parks:
the bit that the passengers get into can only go horizontally on its own.
It attaches to a cable that pulls it along.
When it reaches the lift shaft,
it's actually getting into another, bigger elevator,
it attaches itself firmly to that,
and then it gets hoisted up and down in safety
as if it were a regular passenger elevator.
It's a brilliant bit of engineering.
And it's all so people don't have to walk 300 metres to a regular lift.
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