Before I knew any better, when someone in Calcata would ask where I lived in the village, I’d tell them the address, Via Garibaldi 23. In return, I’d get a blank stare. Since Calcata has less than a dozen lanes, I was initially baffled by people’s ignorance of my street.
But then I learned that there really are no street names in Calcata. Sure, there are a few signs with names etched into them—my street, for example, Via Garibaldi, meets up with Via Cavour (Italian history buffs would find this a rather fitting meeting), which is around the corner from nice-sounding Via della Pietá; there’s also the intriguing Via della Porta Segreta (Way of the Secret Door), as well as Via della Scuola and Via San Giovanni. The two squares—which are connected and form an L shape—are officially called Piazza Umberto I and Piazza Vittorio Emanuelle II; but usually everyone in Calcata just refers to them singularly as “la piazza.”
Calcata’s streets are that of a medieval street plan; meaning there’s no logic to the scheme, the opposite of the Roman street grid, the same plan modern city planners have adopted. Instead, a “straight” alleyway will have an ever-so-slight bend in it, the square will be irregularly shaped (in Calcata’s case, one of the two connected squares is triangular), and some lanes will just magically dead end. It looks and feels organic, a true relic of the Middle Ages when there was no central authority to impose its own civic planning on new towns and villages.