Marble, Travertine, and Granite Care (or lack therof) in Rome

John Leonard continues his series of blog posts from Rome: as an Account Rep for Sungloss Marble Restoration Company in Chicago, I still have my Estimator hat on while walking the streets of Rome. I’m seeing marble, granite, and travertine everywhere here! I’ve been trying to snap pictures of floors, statues, columns, stairs, and other decorative elements that remind me of the stone restoration work we do in and around Chicago for homeowners, Banks, Federal and State Buildings, real estate developers, construction companies, churches and synagogues, and many other clients.

There’s a huge difference from Rome to Chicago in how stone is cared for. A lot of what I’m seeing tells me, it’s not cared for that much! But that alludes to the cultural differences of this region. Marble and travertine come from this immediate area and are used much more frequently, especially in exterior applications like walls, stairs, and floors, where the elements, automotive exhaust, and culturally-tolerated youthful and/or political graffiti immediately take their toll on the stone. The fact that stone is used so liberally tells me ‘its OK’ that it gets so much wear outside, and that in fact, that’s the whole point–stone already millions of years old can take a little more weathering on the streets of Rome.

Much of the interior marble and granite in Rome is used in highly-traveled buildings, i.e. churches or state-run historical tourist sites. Marble floors in these sites would not last unless they were allowed to wear naturally, perhaps only cleaned with the mildest of cleansers periodically. Although I have seen rare occasions where marble flooring had been recently burnished to a satin luster (and once, waxed!), the vast majority of stone seems to be wearing naturally. The naturally burnished patina that results from foot traffic and time, matches the reticent and stately tone of the accompanying space (often, a church). Usually only natural radiant light compliments these spaces, which I will opine is the most pleasing aesthetic marriage with hundreds-year-old marble flooring. In contrast, a polished floor would likely a)reflect light in distracting ways, competing with decorative elements on walls and ceilings, and b)need extensive upkeep, based on the amount of people walking daily on it.

So, below I’m attaching some pictures of stone I’ve seen around Rome which may or may not ‘require’ restoration per se. Conditions which caught my eye as suffering some type of malady, that as part of a professional marble and natural stone restoration team, I might normally be concerned about. I’m on vacation, but like I said, I can’t take the ‘Estimator’ hat off completely!

Imbedded dirt and oxidation in travertine steps adjacent to Roman water fountain - some grinding, rust remover, and poultice probably would reduce it, but it won't come out fully

Original Roman Senate meeting room flooring - looks like a cleaning and sealing would make the colors stand out

Marble flooring in Borromini's baroque masterwork San' Ivo Alla Sapienza - this scratched and faded floor needed mild wet grinding and color enhancement

Glazed tile floor in the Borgia Apartment segment of the Vatican Museum - unfortunately, I think only a carpet runner floor mat would prevent these tiles from wearing away.