After over more than two years' controversy, work to remove the cobblestones (or sanpietrini) from Via Nazionale, is now scheduled to start in March.

According to an article in the daily newspaper, Corriere della Sera, only half the street will be closed for work at a time in order to keep traffic flowing at least along a part of this main thoroughfare. Via Nazionale, which runs from Stazioni Termini to Piazza Venezia, is one of the busiest streets in the city.

Archaeological problems are not expected since the removal of the cobblestones and the laying down of asphalt will take place above an existing layer of cement and will not touch what lies below. Thin strips of cobblestones on both sides of the road will remain.

However protests continue from various groups which claim that the removal of the cobblestones will destroy the historic aspect of the street. Via Nazionale was constructed more or less in its present form in the late-19th century, to connect the railway station with downtown.

The removal of cobble stones from streets outside the immediate historic centre has been underway since 2005 when the then mayor, Walter Veltroni, announced that the sanpietrini would be replaced by asphalt in order to make walking, cycling, driving and street maintenance easier and less dangerous.

At the same time many of pedestrian areas in the historic centre, which previously had asphalt, have now been repaved with sanpietrini in order to restore their original aspect.

The first cobblestones appeared in Rome in the 16th century to facilitate the driving of horse-drawn carriages.

They were named sanpietrini because the first ones are said to have been placed in and around St Peter