Throughout history, the Romans have held bragging rights when it comes to building effective transport networks. However, for Italians today, maintenance is a pain. According to Rome&rsquos city council, it&rsquos problem enough to spring the &lsquoSampietrini Plan&rsquo into action. In a recent press conference, Mayor Virginia Raggi announced that 68 of the city&rsquos busiest thoroughfares will have their cobblestone paving replaced by asphalt. There&rsquos no worries of their romantic charm being relegated to the dump, though&mdashthe centuries-old slabs will be relocated to 118 smaller, less-busy streets.
Some of the roadways lined up for a makeover include Via Nazionale, which connects the public squares of Piazza della Repubblica to Piazza Venezia, and Viale Aventino, which passes by the Circo Massimo stadium. The recycled cobbled blocks will be incorporated into paths that are mostly limited to pedestrian traffic, such as those near shopping hub Via dei Condotti, near the Spanish Steps. Given the complaint-laden notoriety that Rome&rsquos cobbled sampietrini (the slabs first lined St Peter&rsquos Square) have garnered over time, the plan isn&rsquot surprising, or even new&mdashRaggi had announced a similar phase-out in 2005.
Authorities have long complained that the blocks are too expensive to maintain and replace, the artisans required to lay them being increasingly hard to find. Vehicles, scooters, cyclists and pedestrians are troubled by loose or missing cobbles, and the blocks become dangerously slippery when wet. Another growing concern is that the city&rsquos ageing fleet of buses keep catching fire&mdashyou certainly don&rsquot want an additional push and shove that amplifies the situation.
A Greenpeace report found that Rome&rsquos network of metro lines, buses and trams are neither extensive, nor reliable most citizens opted to use their personal modes of transport. The move, if implemented by the end of the year, ought to give all motorists a breather.