For Its Motorists, Only Parts of Rome Prove to Be Eternal

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Asphalt is being laid over many cobblestone streets in Rome, a jarring sight, no doubt, for anyone convinced that Rome never changes.

"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.

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.

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