Rome Travel Guide

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Thursday, August 2, 2012

American Embassy's new Sidewalk: Not for Walking

A sidewalk, but not for walking

The American embassy in Rome is housed in a grand 1890 building that was once home to Italy’s Queen Margaret.  It occupies all of a large, irregularly-shaped city block, with one side running along posh via Veneto.  Since 9/11, the building has been ringed by ugly fences and sand-filled barriers, a slapdash effort, we assume, to keep terrorists at a distance.  Those barriers and fences are now mostly gone, replaced by a wide, handsome sidewalk that surrounds the building.  Except you can’t walk on it.  That’s right: a sidewalk that isn’t for walking.  The sidewalk itself is bordered by a fence—handsome enough, and low enough to easily get over—but a fence nonetheless, and one policed by the guards that patrol the embassy’s several entrances.  

The embassy has effectively commandeered what once was public space around its building.  No parking for cars, and presumably no pedestrians, on the four streets that flank the grounds.  But Romans, being Romans, will walk in the street, and they are doing so now (see photo above), on the edge of those new sidewalks, sharing the busy streets with vehicles.  The expectation, we would imagine, was that pedestrians would use the opposite side of the surrounding streets, where the sidewalks are still sidewalks.  Most will--and some won’t, putting those walkers in peril.  Sooner or later one will be hit by a car or truck, and the embassy will have to justify building a broad sidewalk that wasn’t for walking.   

1 comment:

Marco said...

Nice article. And yes, I too often wondered why did they build a sidewalk... if no one's allowed to use it! By the way, the queen's name was Margherita (not Margaret) who retired here following the assassination of king Umberto in 1900; otherwise, her official "home" was the Quirinal palace.

This one was originally built for Rodolfo Ludovisi, prince of Piombino: that's why the palace's also known as "palazzo Piombino".