On my first full day in Rome, my study abroad program took our group on a walking tour of the city. Because our school sits atop Colle di Gianicolo (Janiculum Hill), the first part of our walk was downhill. We experienced the dazzling panoramic view of the city from Terrazza del Gianicolo (Janiculum Terrace) which no photos can do justice to. On the terrazza sat Il Fontanone dell'Acqua Paola, an enormous stone fountain built in the 1600s and fed by the same aqueduct we'd drank from earlier that day. From there we descended further, crossing the River Tiber into the city center.
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.