All Roads Lead to Rome, Where Potholes Will Destroy Your Tires

But these days, the sampietrini have proved treacherous for the city’s many scooters, slippery for dress shoes and murder for stilettos. And they require constant maintenance under heavy traffic.

In 2005, Mayor Walter Veltroni tried to remove many of the cobblestones to improve traffic conditions, but subsequent administrations had different policies. In the past decade the city’s streets have become an unattractive patchwork of asphalt, cobblestone, gravel and rubble.

“The Via Crucis of the craters,” wept the Rome-based daily Il Messaggero in November 2014. The next year, the papers lamented “Swiss cheese asphalt,” and Italy’s consumer association sued the city for using lousy materials that contributed to “pathologies for the vertebrae.” A corruption and bribery scandal exposed the plots that led to “the killer potholes.”

Bernardo Bertoluci, the movie director, made a short film of his motorized wheelchair getting stuck in the street. During the filming of a James Bond movie in central Rome, the actor Daniel Craig banged his head after hitting a pothole with his speeding Aston Martin.

In May 2016, after the city estimated that half its buses broke down because of damage caused by potholes, or buche, the city introduced the toll-free emergency line “060-BUCHE.”

Today, Mr. Davoli receives the desperate calls of municipal officials with jurisdiction over local roads and personal pothole alerts, like mini Bat-signals, on his Facebook page. He scrolled through scores of them while Ada De Donato, 75, cheered him and his team on.

She asked if they also fixed sidewalks, which, marred by uncurbed dogs, shattered Peroni bottles and disjointed concrete, is hardly a refuge. “Look at this,” she said. “I’m going to break my neck!”

Mr. Davoli apologized that he did only roads for now and kept filling holes. His trusty sidekick, Raffaele Scamardì, also wearing a Patch Me sweatshirt, shouted from down the road.

“Listen,” he called. “There’s another dangerous one over there,”

They dashed to their car and took off. Slowly. It was a bumpy ride.

Continue reading the main story