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Rome to remove its cobbles in bid to save built heritage

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Officials in Rome have admitted that they

are being forced to dig up the city's historic cobbled streets in an effort to protect the vast number of historic monuments and buildings.

Civil servants in the Culture Ministry have become increasingly concerned about the damage being inflicted on the city's heritage by vibrations triggered by trucks and buses as they rattle over the cobblestones.

Maurizio Galletti, an official with the Culture Ministry responsible for Rome's architectural heritage, said the vibrations had damaged some of the city centre's grand Renaissance palaces and caused small fissures in their interior frescoes.

'It's difficult to find a balance in protecting the city's landscape,' Galletti said. But he argued that the protection of the city's monuments, which suffer 'continuous damage' from the vibrations, must be a priority.

Galletti said that to guard against further damage, cobbles should be removed from the congested Piazza Venezia and Via dei Fori Imperiali, which cuts through the Roman Forum, the ruins of the centre of ancient Rome.

But cynics - who argue that there are other more basic reasons for the policy - point to comments made by Italo Fazio, the official in charge of Rome's roads.

He said the main problem is the labour-intensive and costly work needed to lay and maintain the stones, which frequently get displaced creating gaping, hazardous potholes.

Fazio went on to explain that there are only about eight people left trained to hammer the stones into place, a task that requires considerable skill and 'no little muscle'. And that supplies of the cobblestones themselves have been stretched in recent years as the last workshops producing them closed down.

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