Another never-ending Roman story

Another never-ending Roman story: what do about the city’s cobblestones, known as sanpietrini because they were first used in the 1700s to pave Piazza S. Pietro. Some people love’em, some people – especially motorists and cyclists hate them   –  but any way you look at it, deciding what to do about them is a politically charged issue. Some time ago (hurrah, says I who has been riding a motorino or scooter here for decades), they were removed from the two lungoteveri or river roads that flank the Tiber going north and south. But a few years ago when there was a move afoot to remove them from the heavily-trafficked Via Nazionale, it was voted down and the cobblestones were re-laid, despite the expense – setting the sanpietrini is an extremely labor-intensive business – and the awareness of the damage to the suspensions of cars and motorbikes. Now the present mayor, who for other reasons I believe is a disaster, wants to put asphalt down all the city’s major thoroughfares, and with this I tend to agree. Try riding any kind of a bike around central Piazza Venezia and you’ll see what I mean.

The situation, to my mind, should remain different for the city’s pedestrian piazzas, most of which have been recently, and beautifully, repaved, as well as for all the small, characteristic streets that are typical of Rome’s old medieval and Renaissance areas. But the latter on one condition. And that is that the city can afford to keep them properly maintained. On my street in Trastevere, the mortar between the cobblestones in some places as almost completely disappeared which is why you need to tread carefully and, if you are a woman, leave your high heels at home.


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