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Writing on the Wall

Posted on Feb 7, 2009 | 4 comments

We’re still in Trastevere (I took a lot of photos that night!) and this is one of my favorites. Here you’ll see the street sign (vicolo del Cinque) and a plaque laying down the law for citizens. Before I get to the plaque, a quick word about the street signs. Unless you are on a more modern street, this is how you’ll see all the street signs. I remember this being quite weird for me as an American used to looking for the metal pole with the green street sign. Once again, just one of those things that makes you realize how habituated you become to certain little aspects of your culture, and you never realize it’s not like that everywhere until you leave. Italy isn’t the only country that uses street signs like this, I’ve seen their counterparts in Paris and Lisbon as well. So if you’re lost and wandering around, look to the wall! By the way, you may wonder what the “R” with the Roman numerals is all about. Rome is broken into many neighborhoods called rioni—hence the R. Each neighborhood is numbered, so this part of Trastevere is in Rione 13. As people are very tied to their neighborhoods, they all have their own logos, and everyone will know the number of their rione. There was a guy in Monti who used to walk around with a “Rione I” shirt, as Monti is the first rione.

As for the plaque, you’ll see these all over the historic center if you look out for them. Not just in Rome, I’ve also seen these in Venice (in Campo San Zaccaria) and Florence. They basically spell out public ordinances and rules for behavior in the street. This plaque in particular states that under a penalty of 10 scudi it is prohibited to toss trash of any sort in the street. It even states the exact number of the penal code and the date it was passed. Also interesting to note is how set in to the building facade it is. Clearly when the plaque was placed there it would have been flush with the facade. Over the years as new layers of plaster have been added to the building, it’s sunken down a bit.


  1. I passed under that plaque some day ago, just to let people know what you can find while walking i have to say that the plaque you shot has been placed in the end of eighteenth century, i suppose, also you can find another one on “via dei Chiavari” close to the corner with “Via dei Giubbonari” near “campo de’ Fiori”

  2. Thanks for explanation of the “R” and the rioni.

  3. 3mendo – Good tips on where to find others! There’s one on via dei Cappellari as well (so many near Campo de’ Fiori).

    Deb – My pleasure, it occurred to me that people might not know what it means.

  4. sigh…I love this city (even though it’s still raining).

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