Cobblestones to be replaced on many Rome streets


Cobblestones to be laid in many pedestrian areas of Rome.

The quaint cobblestone surfaces of 68 central Rome streets are to be removed and replaced by more traffic-friendly asphalt surfaces, mayor Virginia Raggi has announced.

The attractive bevelled, black basalt stones, called sampietrini in Italian because they were first used in the capital under Pope Sisto V, have many advantages. They provide an elastic surface which adapts itself to the passing traffic, and allow the underlying earth to “breathe”.

But they are the bane of cyclists and Rome’s thousands of motorino riders, becoming slick and dangerous the moment it starts to rain. The surfaces also require constant, costly maintenance to replace or reseat individual stones which have been displaced, opening a gap which quickly widens as traffic passes over it. They are also responsible for many a twisted ankle for unwary pedestrians.

And veterans of the student protests of the late 1960s and 1970s recall how they provided a classical instant supply of ammunition during stone-throwing demonstrations.

Now the city is to replace them on several major thoroughfares with heavy traffic, like Via Nazionale, Viale Aventino and Via IV Novembre. In compensation, sampietrini are to be laid in 113 pedestrian streets like Via Condotti, said Raggi, to preserve the characteristic feature of a historical city centre.