They’re noisy, slippery and highly irregular but they’re part of Rome’s identity and history. The Eternal City’s cobblestones are a very controversial issue here. Every time a city government official proposes to replace them with asphalt concrete ordinary Roman citizens and scholars rise up to defend the old, dear stones that pave Rome’s early streets.
Very much part of the fabric of the historic heart of the city, these stones used to come from the volcanic areas of the Roman countryside which also features many volcanic origin lakes, such as Albano.
Called ‘SanPietrini’ in Roman, i.e. little St. Peter’s, because the first time they were massively used it was in St. Peter’s square, they can be found nearly anywhere in downtown Rome.
Being one of the symbols of Rome, and one of the most versatile, they’ve recently become a design object. They’re on sale in about 20 shops in Rome as money box, book holder, wifi music speaker, light or lamp base and they also sport the “Roma Capitale” mark that gives them an official label. But fear of a speculation triggered heavy criticisms in the Eternal city, as taking these stones from old roads can transform them into a business opportunity for a just a few – as of now only one company is selling them.
But the cobblestone designers say that their purchases were regularly authorized by the city government. The figures, however, are impressive: 10,000 are sold as book holder, 5,000 as money box, 1,000 as a light, 1,000 as lamp base and 500 as wifi music speakers. Total: 17,500 cobblestones. The lamp with the cobblestone at the base costs around 300€ (350 USD) while the price of a simple cobblestone used as a book holder is 40€. Quite a good business for a gadget!