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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Before and After Series: Piazza San Silvestro

It's better, right?  Piazza San Silvestro, located in the heart of commercial and tourist Rome--2 minutes from Galleria Sardi and 5 minutes from the Trevi Fountain--used to be a major bus depot of the open air kind.  Dozens of buses stopped or turned around there.  It was convenient for shoppers, but arguably a waste of a large piazza, not to mention a source of pollution.

And so the authorities decided the bus depot would have to go--indeed, cars, too, would be banned from most of the piazza, which would become a place for pedestrians to chill out, for mothers to walk the baby in the stroller without worrying about traffic, and for tourists to sit down at one of the long, curving benches, have a look at their maps, and admire the piazza's churches.  

Demolition of the bus structures began in 2012.

And here's the result:

Today, people sit in the piazza (though not much in the heat of the day, for there are no umbrellas or other shelters from the sun), and mothers walk their babies, and no doubt tourists are glad to have place to sit and browse their guidebooks for what's in the area.  So in some sense the new piazza works.  But there's something missing, too: energy, a focus of activity, trees, enough people to more or less fill the vastness and give the space proportion--and a place to get relief from the sun.  In some sense, it doesn't work.



panettone said...

When the re-done piazza debuted in 2012 the piazza was packed with people for a day of band concerts, which were great fun. All of the various armed forces were represented, and the best band by far - best musicians, best uniforms, and most precise - was the Carabiniere Band.

We noticed at the time the absence of trees or any sort of greenery. It's not too late to add plantings, and regular events would certainly help attract people. However the city has so many more serious problems I doubt anyone in the the Raggi administration is thinking about Piazza San Silvestro.

Unknown said...

Soon after the piazza reopened we enjoyed an hours-long concert by several military bands in honor of the natale di Roma celebration in April, 2012. The temperature was perfect, the benches welcome, the bands entertaining, and tourists and Romans alike seemed to delight in the event. I agree that some trees would be nice, but umbrelloni or other shelters could bring on their own problems as public street furniture often does. I don't miss the idling buses, and the fewer private autos in il centro the better, secondo me.

Dianne Bennett and William Graebner said...

And from another US reader: I totally agree, Bill. And your accompanying pics really demonstrate the problem. How to resolve space/pollution issues while retaining the normal urban functions of the site? I taught American history and over a decade of doing that came to realize planning often failed to make things better.

Sometimes the professionals made things worse, as I know you know from your own research on Rome. In this case, the monumental factor really gets in the way of life as it is lived.

Another good blog!

Dianne Bennett and William Graebner said...

From a reader: Since the hotel I always stay in is a block from Piazza San Silvestro, I have to agree that in some ways it is not better now. Luckily the buses now stop only a street or two away. I miss the news stand where I could pick up an English Language paper to take back to hotel for breakfast. And the shade is definitely missing though now I am only there in the winter. But some trees would be nice!
One Christmas time, I think 2010 or 2012 Santa's House was at the end of the piazza, but it was missing in 2015. It stayed to take requests for Befana too. I wonder if it will be there this year.