What are pietre d’inciampo and why we should care?

If you walk along the Lungotevere riverside in Rome, or Via Carlo Alberto in Turin or through the Cannaregio district in Venice you may spot something glinting on the pavement. A little brass cobblestone or plaque set into the concrete outside an old door. And if you look closer there is writing engraved on the surface. “Qui abitava..,” here lived, and a name. Or “Qui è stato arrestato….” here was arrested and a name. These are pietre d’inciampo, stolpersteines or stumbling blocks. And this is their story.

pietre d'inciampo stolpersteines

4 pietre d’inciampo at 1223 Calle Ghetto Vecchio in Venice’s Jewish Ghetto, Cannaregio

The origins of pietre d’inciampo or stolpersteines

Pietre d’inciampo, or stolpersteines to give them their original German name, were first conceived by Berlin artist Gunter Demnig back in 1993 as a quiet, unassuming but vital art project. The aim is to commemorate of the lives lost by Jews, Roma gypsies, political prisoners, homosexuals and others to German National Socialism and the Nazi concentration camps of World War II.

Gunter Demnig quotes the Jewish Talmud when he explains his project saying “a person is only forgotten when his or her name is forgotten”. The pietre d’inciampo stumbling blocks in front of buildings in and around Europe remind us of people who once lived there and ensure that their memories live on.

Each plaque represents one person who lived at the address – their last chosen home – before being transported or deported. Sometimes there is just one stumbling block outside the house. Sometimes there is a group that may represent an entire family. Occasionally the doorbell even still carries the family name, suggesting descendants still live at the address linking the past with the present.

And each stolpersteine tells you a little about the person too. When they were born. When they were arrested and deported. And whether they died. Which most did, sadly. Its an extremely thought provoking and moving project.

The artist also lays stolperschwelle or group plaques when the number of people deported from the same address is too large to lay individual stolpersteines for everyone.

Pietre d’inciampo or stolpersteines in Italy

Demnig laid the first brass plaque illegally in Kreuzberg, Berlin, his hometown, in 1997. His passion project has snowballed since then, laying over 56,000 stolpersteines (with permission these days!) in over 1,400 locations in 20 countries, including Italy where there are now over 100 pietre or stones to find.

In Italy, the pietre d’inciampo start “Qui abitava…” or here lived… and commemorate people deported from 11 towns and cities so far including Rome, Venice, Turin, Genoa, Brescia, Livorno, Prato, Ravenna and Meran. Rome has by far the greatest number of brass cobblestones, with Genoa following closely. Venice’s ghetto which celebrated its 500th anniversary in 2016 also has 12 and more pietre are due to be laid around the country over the next year or so.

So next time you’re walking around Rome, Venice, Genoa or any of the 11 Italian towns and cities involved so far, keep your eyes peeled. You may just catch a glimpse of something glittering on the pavement. A pietra d’inciampo or brass cobblestone. I hope you’ll stop to read the inscription. To read a little about the person who lived at the address where you’re standing. And maybe you’ll tell someone about their life, their little memorial stone, so they’re not forgotten. Leave me a comment to let me know too and I’ll add them to the list. One stone, one name, one person at a time.

Locations of pietre d’inciampo around Italy

If you’d like to track down the Italian pietre d’inciampi you’ll find them at 11 locations (so far) including –

Bolzano, Trentino-Alto Adige
The Dolomite city of Bolzano commemorates 25 people in total, victims of persecution, deportation and assassination, with stolpersteines around the city.

Brescia, Lombardy
Brescia has a single stone outside number 1 Vicolo Inganno to commemorate Ubaldo Migliorati. He died at Buchenwald in 1945.

Genoa (Genova)
Genoa has the most pietre after Rome due to a stolpersteine initiative by the Jewish Community of the city. Stones have been laid to many inhabitants including Riccardo Pacifici, the Chief Rabbi of Genoa, who was deported to Auschwitz where he died on 11th December 1943.

Meina, in the Province of Novara, Piedmont
Meina has pietre d’inciampo to remember 16 victims of a massacre that took place between 22nd and 23rd September 1943 at the Hotel Meina.

Merano, in the province of Bolzano, in Trentino-Alto Adige
33 pietre d’inciampo were laid in Merano in 2012 as part of a high school initiative.

Reggio Emilia, Emilia-Romagna
10 pietre d’inciampo are laid in and around Reggio Emilia dedicated to 10 locals deported by the Nazis. Locations include –

  • 18 Viale Montegrappa for Ada Corinaldi, Olga Corinaldi and Bice Corinaldi.
  • 22 Via Emilia San Pietro for Benedetto Melli and Lina Jacchia.
  • 8 Via Monzermone for Oreste Senigallia and Beatrice Rava.
  • 10 Via Monzermone for Iole Rietti and Ilma Rietti.
  • Piazza San Quirino, Correggio, for Lucia Finzi.

There are too many locations to list all the cobblestones or sampietrini as they are known in Rome but more addresses can be found on Wikipedia here https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pietre_d%27inciampo

Stresa on Lake Maggiore, in the province of Verbao-Cusio-Ossola, Piedmont
Stresa has a pietre d’inciampo to Captain Giuliano Nicolini, one of the 44 heroes of the Unterlüss punishment camp. The stone is located in Piazza Possi. 

Pietre d'inciampo stolpersteines

Laying a stolpersteine to Captain Giuliano Nicolini in Stresa (Photo credit : www.ilvergante.com)

Teramo, Abbruzo
A stolpersteine commemorates Sub-Lieutenant Alberto Pepe, one of the 44 heroes who died at the Unterlüss punishment camp. The stone is located in Viale Cavour, no 2.

In May 2014 the Turin Museum of Resistence, Deportation, War, Rights and Freedom began to gather information on the people who lost their lives in the city. The first stolpersteines were laid to 27 people – 10 of whom were political activists, 17 of whom were deported for racial reasons, because they were Jewish. The 50,000th stone was laid in Turin to Eleonora Levi, a Jewess gased to death in Auschwitz in 1944. A further 40 stones were laid in early 2016 in remembrance of 9 more activists and another 31 Jews.

An official map of all the stumbling blocks can be found here http://www.museodiffusotorino.it/documenti/Pietredinciampo_torino.pdf

Venice has at least 12 pietre d’inciampo with many located in and around the Jewish Ghetto in the Cannaregio district. Locations include –

Casa israelitica di Riposo (Jewish care home), 2874 Campo di Ghetto Nuovo, Cannaregio
Campiello de le Scuole, Cannaregio
Campo Santi Apostoli, Cannaregio

All locations are marked on Google here

Viterbo, Lazio
Viterbo commemorates 3 Jewish citizens deported to Auschwitz in 1944 – Emanuele Vittorio Anticoli, Letizia Anticoli e Angelo Di Porto.

As I find more pietre d’inciampo, I’ll add them to the list. If you know of any not yet listed here or have addresses for individual stones, please leave me a comment below with details so I can add them to create as comprehensive a list as possible of all Italian pietre d’inciampo.

Useful information

Official website here

Requesting a stolpersteine

Anyone can sponsor a stolpersteine for a €120 fee that includes manufacture and installation. There is currently a waiting list but for more information email info@stolpersteine.eu

A Hole In My Shoe

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9 Responses to What are pietre d’inciampo and why we should care?

  1. Very interesting! And very sad, too.

    • Indeed, I found reading the short inscriptions very moving. And the fact that descendants still appear to live at some of the addresses just adds to the sadness reminding us all that family members are missing. But I love that these lost people are being remembered in such a beautiful, simple way. Its very touching. Thanks for your lovely comments.

  2. Yvonne says:

    I have seen the ones in the ghetto in Venice, but none of the others.

    • I found around have a dozen in the ghetto Yvonne, but now I know that there are over 50,000 around Europe I will be looking out for them everywhere. The tragedy is that its just the tip of the iceberg in terms of how many souls were lost though. Very sad. Thanks so much for your comment Yvonne.

  3. Madcap Mary says:

    Fascinating article. Grazie.

  4. Oh, I wish I had known this on my trips to Venice and Rome! What a subtle, but powerful way to honor those lives taken. I will make sure to look for them on our next chance to visit. Thank you for sharing this!

    • DreamDiscoverItalia.com says:

      They’re all over eastern Europe Amy, particularly in Germany, Poland and increasingly Italy so keep an eye out wherever you are. You just never know what happened somewhere unless memorials like these keep the memories of the people alive. They’re very touching to see in person, I found the whole thing quite thought-provoking even though I wasn’t personally impacted. Happy exploring and thanks for your lovely comments.

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