Perhaps it was our destiny, ever since they laid the first stone on the Appian Way for us to look at the roads as a sort of measure of life. The Romans gave us the milestones (a Roman mile now different from what we know as a mile, don't ask me why) and life 'On the Road' reached Biblical proportions when St Peter happened to run into Jesus on that very same path. We've been looking for road stories ever since.
I think we're obsessed with roads since Rome (and much of Italy for that matter) is layer upon layer of a storied past. Underneath our black asphalt strips may lie an ancient Domus or a patrician villa. No sooner than someone starts to dig, like for Rome's Line C of the work-in (sort of)-progress subway (tube) station, than it all comes to a halt -- while archeologists start scraping the stones with toothbrushes to determine what it is we're about to be plowing through.
It's no different for the Big News of the summer: the (sort of) closing off of the Via dei Fori Imperiali [via of the Imperial Forums - you know, those ruins ruined in order to make the roadway [not unlike what America does with trees -- naming the streets after the ones mowed down in the process].
It's no wonder that the news went 'round the world - when it comes to Rome, roads are to be watched with close attention - and not just when you're trying ('trying' being the operative word) to cross them. [As Alex of Italy Chronicles tweeted, Tourists in Rome discover (the hard way) that 'pedestrian zone' in Italy doesn't quite mean the same thing as back home.]
To see what we were actually talking about, check out this outstanding picture from one Bepix - You'll see old Rome circa 1890. It gives you a perfect view of what it looked like before Mussolini decided he needed an avenue fit for - well, a fascist Dictator. Rumor has it, in amongst those medieval houses was to be found Michelangelo's as well. [As an aside, you can now go see the facade of his supposed villa at the entrance to the Gianicolo park, above Trastevere.]
Below marks the beginning of the construction.
|Picture posted by Carlo Pavolini on Annarosa Mattei's blog |
And what Mussolini had in mind. Julius Caesar would have been proud.
Today, they still hold the processions, but you'd be more apt to see buses, taxis, politicians' cars (the infamous 'auto-blu' we all love to hate) and entire flotillas of motorcycles, vespas buzzing about, while horse & buggies vie for space along the edges. And with a nod to Rome's ancient past...those vespa riders? They're called Centurions.
In part II, you'll discover what I had originally set out to type...Stay tuned!