You can’t spend ten minutes in Rome without realizing how true this is. Rome is a city that lives and plays around its antiquities. Each day, we walk over the fabulous subterranean remains of the Roman Empire – sadly, only few of them open to the public, although many can be arranged with advance appointments.
Look twice at a building in Rome’s center, and you will see how it has incorporated columns or doorframes or carvings from the ancient buildings that used to stand on the same site. Some of the most beautiful Roman church floors have been made from fragments of marble from the Ancient Roman Forum.
Living or travelling in Rome, one is perfectly attuned to this constant assault of history at each turn.
But even after years of living here, I still take pleasure in finding a new centuries-old city ordinance that has been maintained through countless generations. I just discovered this one near Piazza di San Paolo alla regola, between the Ghetto and Campo de’ fiori.
This wonderful city ordinance dating from MDCLXXXVIII (1688) declares that Mr Illmo, the President of the Streets, has prohibited any person of any social class from throwing onto the streets or allowing to be thrown any type of building materials, straw, cut grass or dead animals anywhere within the city walls. Offenders will be fined twenty-five scudi of gold and will face additional penalties to be determined – fathers will be held responsible for their sons and owners responsible for their servants.
Have fun looking for these ancient city ordinances on Roman walls. Traveler beware – I have no idea how much twenty-five golden scudi could be worth in today’s currency, so don’t even think about littering Rome with your dead livestock …