Cobblestones are not an unfamiliar sight in Rome. These crooked little stones give Rome a little extra old-world character and some very sore feet.
These stones are known as sampietrini, or little St. Peters. Some say this is because each stone represents one of the souls saved by St. Peter, others argue they are called sampietrini simply because the stones were first placed in St. Peter’s Square. Originally laid to accommodate horses and carriages, these ancient volcanic stones are hammered deep into the ground. The cobblestones not only represent the history of when they were laid, but the history of the times past that they have seen. In St. Peter’s Square there is a plaque residing in the space of a few stones marking the spot of the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II in 1981, and brass remembrance stones in the Jewish quarter for victims of the Holocaust.
While the cobblestones both allude to Rome’s ancient history and give the streets an air of charm, many Roman citizens are not big fans of this form of pavement. Uneven, slippery, and so noisy that they interfered with the filming of the new James Bond movie, Spectre, the cobblestones can be inconvenient and dangerous. It is for these reasons that cobblestones have been removed from a few busy, high-traffic roads and replaced with asphalt (with calls to remove even more). Although the need to remove these historic stones is unfortunate, the city of Rome has put safety first, and aside from main roads, the slightly smaller streets of Rome will keep the cobblestones.