There is one quintessentially European aspect of Rome that I originally found alluring, but it got really old really fast: cobblestone. Yes, cobblestone is all over Europe. The picturesque form of pavement adds tons of character to streets scenes, but I have good reason for my sentiments.
To start, the cobblestone is uneven. I have to walk with extra care everywhere I go in fear of tripping over a loose piece. I’ve almost fallen flat on my face at least six times. It’s also very uncomfortable…..can’t be good for the knees, ankles, legs, feet or anything else that we use to walk for that matter. When I the flip-flop-clad sauntering around Rome I want to tell them that they’re crazy. (First, out of concern for their wellness and secondly because flip-flops are not real shoes. They’re beach-and-pedicure-wear only. Not for street-walking. Especially the streets of Rome or any other cobblestone-covered locale.)
On a personal level, cobblestone has limited my footwear choices for going out. It’s impossible to wear anything that has any kind of heel because it will get damaged. When I visit Milan, I very much look forward to wearing heels on sidewalks and streets that are actually paved with cement while without having to fear long-term damage. I’m actually writing this from Milan where I wore heels out last night, and plan to follow suit tonight & tomorrow evening. Sure, there are some neighborhoods in Rome such as Prati and Garbatella where you could parade around in heels because the cobblestone is scarce, but it’s getting to these places that’s the problem. If I wanted to treat myself to the luxury and comfort of door-to-door taxi rides, I could, but it’s just not practical. Suppose the first stop of the night isn’t my last? I don’t want to be the one person who demands a taxi for the sake of my shoes. I’d look like an idiot for wearing them out in the first place with all the cobblestone! I hate the buses and trams and try to avoid them at all costs unless it’s absolutely necessary. Especially in the summer! So it’s either the metro or a piedi for me. Note: the taxi system here is MUCH more civilized than New York’s. You either go to a taxi stand or you call and they’ll pick you up in front of your home, a restaurant, the movies, wherever. None of the chasing-down-cabs nonsense or–if you’re with friends–the dividing & conquering street corners until someone is successful. What’s even better is they give you a confirmation number when you call so if there are five different people waiting for a cab and one pulls up, you know which one is yours and it doesn’t turn into a no-holds-barred smackdown. Speaking of a smackdown, you should see the scramble to snag a recently unoccupied seat on the metro. It can get ugly. Sorry, I’m digressing!
Now, this didn’t cross my mind when I was preparing for the big move. Sure, I had been warned about the cobblestone, but I thought, “I’m a high heels expert. I’ll manage.” I couldn’t have been more wrong. If I had known the true magnitude of what I was in for, there are some shoes I would have foregone for other items since my two suitcases were limiting. But it’s not the end of the world. For now the heels sit in my wardrobe. At least I have Milan and the best remedy of all: July summer sales.