ROME — If, as it’s said, all roads lead to Rome, then they intersect at Piazza Venezia, the downtown hub of the Italian capital, watched over by a traffic officer on a pedestal who choreographs streamlined circulation out of automotive chaos.
For many Romans and tourists alike, those traffic controllers are as much a symbol of the Eternal City as the Colosseum or the Pantheon.
That may explain why the return this week of the pedestal (plus its traffic cop) after a yearlong hiatus while the piazza was being paved, set off a media frenzy — even if there was little traffic to direct given the widespread lockdown that began this week to contain an upsurge of coronavirus cases.
“In this difficult period, I think that it was seen as a sign of something returning to normal,” said Fabio Grillo, 53, who, with 16 years under his belt, is the senior member of the team of four or five municipal police officers who direct traffic from the Piazza Venezia pedestal.
white-gloved hands is something that all Italian motorists dutifully memorize for their driver’s tests. (Important note: Two hands straight out with palms facing motorists is equivalent to a red light).
“It’s been compared to conducting an orchestra,” said Mr. Grillo.
Apart from regular traffic, Piazza Venezia is also a crossroads that leads to City Hall, the Parliament, Italy’s presidential palace and a national monument where visiting heads of state routinely pay homage — which all contributes to the chaos at the hub.
a book. He retired in 2007. “He was an icon for us,” said Mr. Grillo.