ROMA ARCHEOLOGICA & RESTAURO ARCHITETTURA: [Roma & sampietrini] “For Its Motorists, Only Parts of Rome Prove to Be Eternal,” THE NEW YORK TIMES (01 Sept. 2005), [di Dott.ssa Ilaria Giacobbi Presidente “Ass. Selciaroli Romani” 01|2015].
— [Roma & sampietrini] “For Its Motorists, Only Parts of Rome Prove to Be Eternal,” THE NEW YORK TIMES (01 Sept. 2005).
ROME, Aug. 28 – As a salami salesman, Giorgetti Mincello, 49, has driven his little scooter over the bumpy roads of Rome the equivalent of two-thirds around the equator in the last year. So he considers himself an expert on one atmospheric bit of Roman history that he believes would be better left in the past.
“They were fine when there were horses and carriages – there was a smooth surface and a smooth wheel,” he said. But now, “When it rains or a car loses oil, it’s finished.”
Mr. Mincello was thus pleased to see, 100 yards away, that a paving machine had just laid a coat of smooth, bland asphalt on a section of road along the Tiber that, probably for centuries, had been covered with costly, slippery but very pretty cobblestones. “They should have done this a long time ago,” he said.
“The massacre of the cobblestones,” as one Roman official put it, is well under way, part of a city program to lay asphalt on streets that are used mostly by cars, buses and scooters. On pedestrian walkways and piazzas treasured by tourists, like Piazza Venezia, the city has pledged to keep the cobblestones, called sampietrini. (They were supposedly first used around St. Peter’s Basilica; there is also lore about St. Peter’s having saved as many souls as there are cobblestones in Rome.)
Already, with Roman streets nearly empty during the summer holiday, several main strips in the historic center, including sections of the Lungotevere, the ancient road next to the Tiber, have been paved over, a jarring sight, no doubt, for anyone convinced that Rome never changes.
But the surprising thing – in this city concerned as much with “la bella figura” as with its self-image as charmingly, or irritatingly, resistant to the modern world – is that there has not been much outrage. This is not the same as saying Romans prefer asphalt. But with 400,000 scooters in Rome, little public money and impatience for anything that slows traffic, there seems to be resignation that the change might be for the good – if done correctly.
“There are other things that make me sad more than this,” said Paolo De Manincor, 57, an architect who lives along the Tiber, standing aside fresh asphalt that, a few hours earlier, had been an uneven, rutted stretch of old cobblestone.
“This is a very difficult problem,” said Carlo Giavarini, an engineering professor and director of the Center for Cultural Heritage, a preservation institute at La Sapienza University. “I think it’s very difficult to balance the technical advantages and safety advantages with aesthetic advantages. Being an engineer, I prefer not to face this kind of problem.”
For some of the millions of tourists, the repaving seems something of a surrender. After all, the world seems to feel better believing Rome will stay exactly as it is.
“Why would you want to mess with antiquity just to make room for modernity?” asked Dominic Fabrizio, 35, a waiter visiting here from Niagara Falls, N.Y. “This is not going to be replaced. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.”
The truth is that the cobblestones, while old, are not ancient. Experts say they were first put in place in the 17th century, when they replaced the larger and older stones still visible on the Appian Way. And, city officials contend, the time had finally come for another change.
The city’s mayor, Walter Veltroni, has spoken often about the increasing cost of using cobblestones, which he said was roughly double that of asphalt. Giancarlo D’Alessandro, chief of Rome’s public works department, gave other reasons: safety for scooters, which often slide out of control on cobblestones, for example, and noise reduction. Also, cobblestones are more rigid and may generate vibrations that damage monuments and buildings.
But with tourism a major industry, Mr. D’Alessandro was eager to make the case that paving would not markedly change Rome because the program would be limited to major thoroughfares. Much of the work, he said, is paving streets that were already a patchwork of asphalt and cobblestone, and for years, the city has been paving over cobblestones outside the center and recycling the stones to streets downtown.
“The architectural charm will remain intact, while we give Rome more functionality, modernity,” he said.
There is, however, at least one man in Rome deeply offended by all this.
“It’s a political thing, and only political,” said Roberto Giacobbi.
Mr. Giacobbi, 46, has worked for 28 years as a selciarolo, one of the men who, by hand, break up blocks of volcanic rock into cobblestones of precisely the right size and fit them onto the street. His father did the same work for 50 years, and with two generations of experience to judge by, Mr. Giacobbi said the art of the cobblestone – and thus making Rome a work of art – is being moved to the margins.
Twenty years ago, he said, came the closure of the last of the quarries that produced basalt for true Roman cobblestones. The work was not economical, he said, with cheaper imports coming mostly from China (which provides a similar stone, though slightly darker and, he said, only “sufficient” for the job).
He disputes the notion that asphalt is cheaper. He said that on average a Roman road needs to be repaved every two years, but that at three piazzas near the Vatican that he fitted with cobblestones 20 years ago, “nothing has moved.”
“With sampietrini, you do it once, and if you take care of it, it will last forever,” he said.
The real issue, he said, is one of “culture,” that the world has lost patience for the time it takes to do things by hand. The city, he said, has made the “political” choice not to inconvenience drivers. Asphalt takes a few hours. Cobblestones go in slowly, at about 20 to 30 square yards a day.
But the reward, he said, is obvious: he walked around Piazza di Spagna showing off the work of selciaroli from a century ago: arches that run like rainbows stacked one on the other; the “peacock tail” composed of arches like feathers; the “fish spine,” a herringbone made of stone.
“The beauty is a stupendous thing,” he said. “I wouldn’t change it for another material in the world.”
FONTE | SOURCE:
— [Roma & sampietrini] “For Its Motorists, Only Parts of Rome Prove to Be Eternal,” THE NEW YORK TIMES (01 Sept. 2005), [di Dott.ssa Ilaria Giacobbi Presidente Ass. Selciaroli Romani, 01|2015].
ROMA ARCHEOLOGICA & RESTAURO ARCHITETTURA: Roma, Piazza Veneia nel rebus dei sampietrini – Tra tutela storica e sicurrezza stradale: forse su parte dei percossi lastre di basalto, CORRIERE DELLA SERA (02|09|2005), [PDF] p. 1. & IL MESSAGGERO (28|12|2014).
— PDF = Roma, Piazza Veneia nel rebus dei sampietrini – Tra tutela storica e sicurrezza stradale: forse su parte dei percossi lastre di basalto, CORRIERE DELLA SERA (02|09|2005), [PDF] p. 1.
— Roma, Campidoglio vende sampietrini Piazza Venezia: la strada sarà asfaltata, IL MESSAGGERO (28|12|2014).
— ROMA ARCHEOLOGICA & RESTAURO ARCHITETTURA: Margherita Zanzarella Dottori (A CURA DI) NO ALLA RIMOZIONE DEI SAMPIETRINI A ROMA, FACEBOOK (30|12|2014).
Ce li misero i papi nel ‘500, grazie ad una tassa sulle meretrici! Si, i “serci” sono stati messi in posa nel per far scivolare meglio le carrozze …. e sono diventate un simbolo di Roma!
— ROMA ARCHEOLOGICA & RESTAURO ARCHITETTURA: Associazione Selciaroli Romani | Non-Profit Organization | FACEBOOK (di Dott.ssa Ilaria Giacobbi
Presidente Ass. Selciaroli Romani) [01|2015].
FOTO | FONTE | SOURCE:
— ROMA ARCHEOLOGICA & RESTAURO ARCHITETTURA: Piazza Venezia – Tra la fine del 1800 e l’inizio del 1900, a seguito della realizzazione del monumento a Vittorio Emanuele II & Piazza Venezia (2009-13), in: METRO C scpa (2011) & Pietro Strorti – Trivioquadrivio (2013). [01|2015].