Tram 3 runs an impressive forty-six stop line, passing through my neighborhood of Trastevere. I hop on at Pascarella and ride just three stops to the Ministero dell’Istruzione. The Ministero is a grand, imposing building, all white stone and stoic columns. It’s the kind of building that can’t be ignored on one’s first, second, even third glances, and yet it eventually and inevitably fades into the scenery of all the other grand Roman sites.
The Via della Madonna dell’Orto (via is the Italian word for street) is paved with sampietrini. Chiseled from basalt found in the hills outside the city, they’re small, squarish stones, graphite-colored, and they fill the roads in uneven rows. If we weren’t in Rome, they’d be called cobblestones, but instead, they are sampietrini: “little Saint Peters.” There are supposedly as many stones in the streets of the city as there are souls saved by Saint Peter.