--Trastevere, Rome - on 10/17/2014
This morning we woke up at 5:30am to get ready for our "Private Tour" of the Vatican. We called a radio taxi service the night before to pick us up at the Gensola apartment at 7:15am... we were to meet the tour guide at 8:50am at the bottom of the steps across the street from the Vatican Museum entrance. (We used Presto Tours. Look for my TripAdvisor review). We are about a 15 minute ride from the Vatican Museum. The trouble with calling for a radio taxi is the language problem (I found they use a lot of slang) along with the lousy cell phone connection you often get.
The next morning the taxi driver was on time and so were we. That was a good thing, because radio taxis start the meter when they get the call from their dispatcher, not when you get in the car. The driver was great, spoke English, and got us there without cheating on the fare. We heard that some try the trick of pushing the "tariff 2" or "tariff 3" buttons (for outside the town walls) instead of "tariff 1" which can triple or quadruple the fare. Pay attention, and say something if it's not set to "tariff 1".
We got to the meeting point at the bottom of the stairs on Via Tunisi, just below the entrance to the Vatican Museum, and saw all the large tour groups cuing up. We went for the extra bucks and got a private tour so we wouldn't get lost in a herd of sheep, and to go through faster because of my lousy knees. When I saw the size of some of the tour groups (especially from the cruise ships), I was glad we weren't part of the cattle following a tour guide, wearing an earpiece (it's so loud in the Vatican at times it's impossible for groups to hear their own guide without a headset) and following the colored flag on a pole.
After a half hour wait Marcello arrived... (we paid for an earlier entry time... now that was blown!) He spoke English with a slight Italian accent and as it turned out was born in Houston, Texas but moved to Italy when he was 13. Ciao-dy!
As we started up the stairs and toward the entrance we felt a relieved when Marcello led us past the flocks and into the entrance. He waved his tour guide I.D. ward casually and got us quickly past the checkpoints in the surprisingly modern interior of the entrance mezzanine. Even though it was very modern, we sensed no air conditioning! (It was hot). He started the tour by telling us the history of Rome itself and how the Vatican came to exist--informative but a bit dry--even though I had told him ahead of time to keep things simple but interesting for an 11 year old. Our bags went through the X-ray belt and we were on our way up and around and into the museum--at first by modern escalator, then by steps.
We went through hall after hall and saw more and more art, sculptures, tapestries, frescoes and became aware of the unimaginable wealth of the Roman Catholic Church. Of course, my childhood idols were there... Boteccelli, Raphael and Michelangelo. The tapestries were wonderful, but I've seen some in better shape and under better care in other museums, including the Cloisters in New York. I'll be honest, I thought some the frescoes that were restored looked flat and lifeless. Perhaps they cleaned off too much of the subtleties from the hands of the Masters.
There was even a section under the Sistine Chapel that contained a treasury of modern masters... Chagal, Mattise and others. What concerned me is the complete lack of climate control for all these treasures of mankind. There is no air conditioning and most of the windows were open allowing the pollution, humidity and heat of the day to permeate the exhibit halls. I was sweating like crazy after a while... imagine the tens of thousands of visitors they cram through there every day.... all that body heat, humidity, body oils, etc. They make 70 million dollars a year on Vatican ticket sales and they don't spend a dime on climate control? Shame on them. As a lifelong artist I was shocked at the lack of at least a minimum of basic care for the art and the architecture itself.
Pardon this rant... The unimaginable wealth and hoarding of the treasures the Catholic Church could be put to better use in helping the needy in the world. Selling off their Chagal collection alone could potentially solve the ebola crisis in Africa, for example. Much of the art in the lower chamber (I believe it's under the Sistine Chapel itself) has nothing to do with Catholicism or religion of any kind.
Anyway, the big moment came when we were about to enter the Sistine Chapel. Oddly, tour guides are not allowed to speak inside the Chapel. Because of this, guides need to explain what visitors are about to see before they even get close to the Chapel. Marcello briefed us in a dark chamber by pulling out a book and turning the pages as he explained what we are about to see. (The shorthand version). You'd think with all their millions in revenue the Vatican Museum would install a proper orientation exhibit to educate visitors before they enter... videos, slides, displays, etc. Heck, even our local canal barge museum has an orientation video before you take a ride on the canal, and the Crayola Factory in a nearby town has excellent, world class multi-media presentations! I mean, after this is the Vatican!
After Marcello finished showing us photos in his dog-eared art book, he led us through more rooms and then upstairs (no elevator... people with walking issues need to be ready for this) and into the crowded Sistine Chapel, saying he would meet us near a back door in 10 minutes or so. Ten minutes? When I was a young man, I heard of people spending all day, often laying on the floor with binoculars to soak in the wonder of the Ceiling. Ten minutes?
We were now on our own--with about 1000 or more other people from large tour groups... shoving Chinese, rude Italians and pushy Germans (forgive me, but I'm just pointing out my observations). After a little while we luckily found seats against a side wall (Knees to Babbo, "Thank You!") and sat gazing up at the magnificence of Michelangelo's genius. Lucas was surprised when he realized that the architectural details like moldings and columns were all Trompe-l'œil (tricks of the eye)... all painted to look three dimensional. He also liked the Creation of Man... the famous God touching the hand of Man scene. I loved the Temptation of Adam panel. The bright colors of the restoration of about 20 years ago brought out all the amazing bright colors of the frescoes. Before that, the frescoes were covered with half a millennium of candle soot.
Afterwards, we went outside and around to the front entrance to St.Peter's Basilica. The place is immense. You could almost fit Yankee Stadium inside. The art was mostly beautiful, the rest I found to be ostentatious. The grandeur is overtly in your face--majestic by design. The craftsmanship in everything is unbelievable, and a bit disturbing to thin of the enormous resources the Church spent to have them made by artists and craftsmen throughout history (instead of taking care of the truly needy?) The huge dome can easily fit the Statue of Liberty inside. Some sculptures and angels are huge. The marble columns are massive. The bronze doors are enormous. Amazingly, because of the crowds, the echoing chatter, the picture-taking and the signs warning of pickpockets in the Basilica, I didn't feel God here.
Marcello was still in his bore-them-with-obscure-details mode, Lucas was thirsty and hot, Lisa was hot and having a near melt-down, and my knees were out for the count and my sweat had dehydrated me beyond belief. I can imagine how many people collapse in this place from exhaustion and heat, but unlike Disney theme parks, I didn't see even a single defibrillator station anywhere.
We told Marcello we were going to cut this part of the tour short--Short? We were going over 5 hours! We said good bye to Marcello outside and above the Square and after a stop at the Vatican Post office to get Lucas some stamps, we headed off to find cooling refreshments. We waded through shepherds and their tourist flocks and several gypsies dressed as nuns looking for handouts, African hawkers selling cheap junk and finally saw The Line... of people trying to get through the security check and into the Basilica. It was six people thick and going from one side of St Peters to the other, where it then went into corralled switchback lines, zig-zagging back and forth. It looked like about 50,000 people trying to enter a single entrance to a major league baseball stadium. Incredible! I've heard the wait on line can be 3 hours long...
Now we knew for sure that our not so private tour was worth it just to avoid those hours on that unbearably long line. Was the Vatican Tour itself worth it? I'm not so sure. Of course, as an artist, a lifetime dream of seeing the Sistine Chapel was realized... but not in a way where I could appreciate the art in a meditative manner, as I did when I was a kid and would sit for long periods studying a painting I liked.
I didn't appreciate being swallowed up by the ever-rushing tour groups, effectively nullifying our "private tour". I really hated how poor the Museum is in terms of climate control and protecting these treasures... for example, walking through the bedrooms of the Popes, the beautiful ceramic tile floors have been worn clear through the top layers of color from the thousands of shoes walking on them. I saw graffiti around some windows. The 16 foot tall windows being wide open to the humidity and pollution was horrible.
And I really thought that visiting the seat of the Catholic faith itself--St. Peters--would be a more moving experience. It was loud, crowded, and we were in fear of pickpockets (even Marcello warned us). Perhaps they should treat this like a museum, too... and limit how many people enter at one time. It's a functioning place of worship, so anyone can walk right in (after the long wait in line). In general, I get the feeling that the Vatican will increase the number of tourists, making matters worse. Perhaps there is a marketing manager in a hot office somewhere setting new goals for 100 million dollars a year.
We bought some gassata (sparkling water) from a street vendor to cool down, then grabbed a taxi at the taxi stand across the piazza, and went back to our apartment to refresh ourselves. Snacks and a nap brought an end to this day of agony and ecstasy.
Click HERE to see some amazing High Resolution images of the Sistine Chapel!
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Copyright 2015 - Jerry Finzi - All Rights Reserved
Before we traveled to Italy, I researched about all sorts of things... especially how people scam and cheat. There are lots of warnings online about taxi cheats. I just wanted to report that after having used car services, radio taxis, taxis from a taxi station and even hailing a taxi that we spotted with his roof light on (free), we have not been cheated.
The radio taxis always show up on time with the help of their sophisticated gps unit. The car service I used costs barely more than a city taxi and is very professional. (transfercruiserome.com) If you see a taxi with its roof light lit, try hailing... as long as you are standing where they can pull over without blocking traffic (in other words, not on a narrow side street). There was one time I tried hailing a taxi on a crowded side street... one with barely any sidewalks (a common thing in Italy). The driver looked at me like I was crazy. Sure... he had no place to pull over. Lesson learned.
And just in case, always look at the meter for the "tarrifa 1" to be lit up. Within the city walls "tarrifa 1" is the correct lower rate. If you see "tarrifa 2" or "tarrifa 3" lit up for a trip inside the city limits of Rome, beware... you've got a crook trying to double or triple the rate. Tarrifa 2 and 3 are used for trips outside the walls, into the suburbs or to the airport.
In general, I've found the drivers to be talkative, friendly, helpful and responsive when you at least try to speak some Italian. I'm sure they are more used to tourists who don't attempt even the most basic Italian words and expressions. Looking back, I wish I had taken photos of the drivers... I still remember their faces and smiles. By the way, unlike in Manhattan, every taxi driver was actually an Italian.
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Copyright 2015 - Jerry Finzi - All Rights Reserved
Rome is getting old. In April, Romans celebrate its 2,769th birthday. (Complaining about catching up to the Beatles song, "When I'm 64" is a little ridiculous when compared to Rome's age). Every year in April, Rome celebrates its old age with parades and other events all around the city. One of the symbols of the Eternal city is the bronze she-wolf and symbol of Rome "Lupa Capitolina" which is now at the Capitoline museum.
Rome's history begins with a legend of love, lust, jealously and murder almost three thousand years ago. The pagan god Mars, smitten by the beauty of a Vestal Virgin, made his way into her temple to sleep with her. When the disgraced Vestal gave birth to twin boys, remarkable for their size and beauty, the evil tribal king ordered the infants thrown in the Tiber River. The cradle containing the babies drifted downstream and washed ashore at the base of the Palatine hill, named for Pale, a goddess of shepherds. There, according to legend, a lupa (she-wolf) suckled the twins Romulus and Remus. Historians think the nursing wolf was more than likely a human woman--in Latin, the word Lupa was slang for prostitute, and brothels were known as lupanaria. During ongoing excavations on the Palatine hill, archaeologists recently discovered what could be the original lupercale, the cave that sheltered the twin boys and that later served as a shrine for their worship. As the boys grew, they were instrumental in building a small town on the banks of the Tiber.
The Italian capital's official founding date is 21 April. On that date, according to the legend, the brothers got into a terrible argument over their town, and Romulus killed his brother Remus in order to declare himself both ruler and founder. Obviously pleased with himself (and, apparently, his recent murder of his brother), he named the new city after himself. Egotistical guy, huh?
Archaeological research and discoveries suggests the date of the beginnings of Rome is roughly correct. They estimate that the area had actually been populated since about 1000 BC, but 753 BC symbolically and officially marks the beginning of the Rome we still see ruins of today. Since then, the city's had a fairly volatile trajectory: first a small Latin village, then capital of a giant Mediterranean empire, then a bit of a ghost town dominated by the Pope, before finally becoming capital once again of a reunited Italy in the 19th century. As the graph shows, the city's population grew dramatically over time. Look at the dip during the Fall of the Roman Empire at 476 AD and its growth after the late 1800s brought unification to Italy:
The Roman roots are still at the core of modern day Rome---even the man hole covers, emblazoned with S.P.Q.R., the ancient Latin abbreviation for the Senatus Populusque Romani (the senate and people of Rome). Modern day Romans insist that the letters really stand for Sono pazzi questi Romani. (They're crazy, these Romans).
Buon compleanno, Roma!
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The Pontifical Swiss Guards have been protecting the Popes and the Vatican since 1506... think about that. Over 500 years of tradition and military valor. They may seem a bit frilly to modern eyes, but underneath the traditional Renaissance garb, they are all well trained, special forces selected especially from the Swiss Army for the Vatican detail.
The Swiss Guard is also the smallest army in the world with typically only about 125 soldiers and officers serving at at a time. There are strict requirements: You must be a Swiss man, younger than 30, a minimum 5' 8" tall, be a Catholic with a high school diploma or higher. Your Swiss military service must be with good merits. You can't be married when you come into the Guard, but can marry later on. You must serve for at least two years at the Vatican. Guardsmen (no women yet) are paid a tax free salary of €1,300 per month.
Many think that Michelangelo designed their uniforms, but actually their original uniforms were slight modifications of the outfits worn by the Swiss arm at that time with the addition of the crossed keys symbol of the Vatican. The modern uniforms we see when visiting the Vatican today are actually a redesign by one of the Guard's own... Commandant Jules Repond (1910-1921).
Repond studied the frescoes in the Vatican itself for the inspiration that led to the colors of the Medici (blue, red, yellow) on the Guards medieval, (and what some see as) clown-like outfits. He also introduced the fairly simple beret as the main headgear, although the metal and ostrich feathered helmet (called a morion) are still used for full dress assembly (along with white gloves). The Pierrot-like ruffled collar was morphed into a simplistic white collar. For everyday outfits, they wear a simple purple uniform which still maintains a Renaissance flair.
Although the Swiss Guard is supposed to be a rigidly trained, elite military group, Pope Francis sees it a bit differently. The Pope was angered after he saw a young Swiss guard standing outside his papal suite all night. The Pontiff told the young man to sit down for a rest, but the Guard replied that sitting was against strict orders. Apparently, the Pope replied, "I give the orders around here" and brought the guard a cappuccino. Because of this event and others he witnessed, Pope Francis fired the chief officer of the Guard, Colonel Daniel Rudolf Anrig for being "too strict" in 2014. Another deciding factor was Pope discovering that Colonel Anrig had moved into a luxurious apartment over the Swiss Guard's barracks in the Vatican.
Still, the Swiss Guard remains a tough, intensely trained army to protect the both the Pope and the treasures contained at the Vatican and St. Peter's Basilica. There are the Guard that are apparent to all visitors, with their colorful dress, but there are also members with more stealthy duties akin to the U.S. Secret Service. Whenever you see the Pope in public, they surround him looking away from the Pontiff into the crowd. They all are packing some pretty serious heat: fully automatic and compact Sig 552 machine guns are hidden under their jackets. But don't write off the soldiers on public duty... they receive specialized training with their Renaissance-age weapons, and are very cable of using their 9-foot long steel pike to stop an attacker or terrorist. There is also a arsenal of weapons, both modern and old, that the soldiers train with constantly with. Of course, handguns are used... notably the SIG P220 pistol.
Besides the Swiss Guard, the Pope and Vatican City itself is protected by the 200 year old Gendarmeria Corpo della Città del Vaticano (Gendarmerie Corps of Vatican City State)--its own uniformed police force. They are on duty in St. Peter's Square, direct traffic (both pedestrian and vehicular), and investigate crime within the Vatican City boundaries. Essentially, they are the State Police of Vatican City. They are even trained in counter-terrorism, explosive ordinance disposal and anti-sabotage techniques.
In addition to all this, there is an infrastructure to go along with all of the Papal protection, led by the Inspector General of the Vatican. It's the Inspector General that leads security teams when the Pope has a state visit somewhere in the world.
As you can see, Pope Francis, and all that is contained in Vatican City are well protected... well proven by the 3 hour long lines trying to get into St. Peters Basilica!
So, when visiting the Vatican, take all the photos of the Swiss Guard that you like... just remember, they are not clowns... they are real, workaday soldiers dedicated to their task-- to protect the Pontiff.
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Rome has lots of graffiti. Tons of it. Way too much of it. Well, now, someone is going to be power-washing a bit of it.... a tiny bit... around stenciled, shadowy images formed by the grime and graffiti left behind.
South African artist, William Kentridge (Huh? Not an Italian?) is going to power-wash his 1800 foot work of art onto the walls of the Tiber River in Rome. The frieze will stretch from Ponte Sisto and Ponte Mazzini. His work involves placing stencils onto the filthy, graffitied stone walls and power-washing the stone around the stencils--the stencils will be removed, revealing a ghostly silhouette of each image underneath. His concept (he dubbed Reverse Graffiti) is that the imagery will eventually become dirty and covered with graffiti over time and blend back into the ancient stone walls which prevent the Tiber from flooding over its banks.
The project entitled Triumphs and Laments, is sponsored by Tevereterno, an organization working to clean up and revitalize the Rome river walk.
Even though Kentridge isn't a Roman, his work smacks one in the face with his gritty style and images of pain, valor, bravery, banality, joy, war and religion--all part of Rome's history and contradictions.
If you want to see the work, it will be revealed on Rome’s 2,769th birthday on April 21st. I hope they have enough candles for the cake!
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Let the Bocca della Verita (Mouth of Truth) Read Your Palm - From a Vending Machine? Wait... What?!
Ok, so while researching my post about our Bocca della Verita mascot, I came across this gem. Apparently, back in the 1980s, a vending machine company had just come up with a new design for a fortune telling machine. They showed off their machine to a prospective Italian client and he loved it--with one catch. They needed to make it look like the Bocca della Verita.
Manufactured by DPS-Promatic in Italy, apparently the idea was a hit because the company claims to have units in countries all around the world. Apparently, they also make the machine in different versions: Horoscope, Tutankhamen, and a Gypsy. There is a floor standing model and a smaller wall-mounted one.
Here's a video of how to use it. Stick your hand in the mouth and it will scan the lines of your palm. Wait until it analyzes, then it prints out an ATM style fortune...
From its altitude of 750 feet above the Tyrrhenian Sea, Voyagers can enjoy the unforgettable vista Terracina far below, the Pontine plain, Mount Circeo and looking far out to sea, as far as the Pontine islands and Ischia.
Since the year 2000 the Temple is protected as a “Natural Monument” in the Lazio Region, and is host to the famous Anxur Lumina Sound and Light show. The temple is open all year long and offers a panoramic cafeteria located inside the archaeological area.
The God Jupiter
Jupiter (also called Jove) was the King of the Gods and the God of Sky and Thunder in Ancient Roman religion and mythology. Jupiter was the chief deity of Roman state religion throughout the Republican and Imperial eras, until Christianity became the dominant religion of the Empire.
Jupiter is usually thought to have originated as a sky god. His identifying implement is the thunderbolt, and his primary sacred animal is the eagle, which held precedence over other birds and became one of the most common symbols of the Roman army. The two emblems were often combined to represent the god in the form of an eagle holding in its claws a thunderbolt, frequently seen on Greek and Roman coins. As the sky-god, he was a divine witness to oaths, the sacred trust on which justice and good government depend. His sacred tree was the oak.
(Halfway between Rome and Naples, perfect for a weekend getaway)
Terracina is snug against the Tyrrhenian Sea on the Riviera of Ulysses; so-called because legend has it that Odysseus sailed through on his travels. Nothing says "Odysseus was here" like Mount Circeo, rising out of the sea like the jagged profile of a reclining witch. The sorceress Circe is said to have lived there, plotting to turn Greek sailors into beasts. This uniquely-shaped rock formation is visible from other towns along the Riviera of Ulysses but Terracina is at just the right distance to create the perfect panorama of sea, sky, and mountain. The Mount Circeo is visible from most points in the city, perhaps none as overwhelming as when you're standing in the sea, looking North. Each evening, the mountain goes up in flames: no two sunsets are ever alike.
Terracina's centro storico has ochre colored houses with green shutters on narrow cobblestone streets. There are the ruins of a mosaic-covered Capitolium and a massive rose colored square. The old quarter's nightspots attract live music fans, tourists, and locals alike.
Don't forget that Terracina is a beach town, so fresh seafood is great here. Restaurants run the gamut from family-run trattorias to seafood shacks and small osterias with young Foodie chefs. Voyagers can enjoy risotto alla pescatora, calamari fritti and spicy boar sausage, while deep-fried filled Zeppole (doughnuts) are eaten hot in the evenings. Terracina hosts a number of sagre (festivals) including a strawberry festival in late Spring, a chestnut festival in the fall, and a muscatel grape festival in late Summer. Terracina's muscatel wine was the wine of Ulysses and still claim to be sweetest in the region.
As for music, there is traditional folk music, Italian reggae, and Italian rap. The Anxur Festival draws the area's best musical acts.
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Colosseum Restoration Project Gets Go-Ahead, and "Corporate Medici" Cash Footing the Bill for Monument Fix-Ups
It seems like Italy needs a lot of help from corporate donors to rejuvenate many of their national monuments... for instance, a visitor to Rome will find the Trevi Fountain covered with scaffolding, swarming with workers and with a catwalk above and in front of the watery treasure--all paid for by Fendi, a private Italian corporation. Many are outraged about "Corporate Medici" gaining control or favor over their pet projects... (read more about it here...)
The Colosseum will be covered in scaffolding for almost three years when an ambitious 25 million euro (£20 million) project to restore the 2,000-year-old monument begins later this year. (more...)
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Vandalizing Rome: Part 2
Here are some excerpts from a 2010 Wall Street Journal article about trying to clean up the graffiti in Rome. After reading this I now understand how nothing gets done about it.
Urban Scrawl: Rome's Graffiti Pits Artists Against Clean-Up Crews
On a recent afternoon, a group of American diplomats gathered on Rome's cobblestones with buckets and rollers, spreading peach-colored paint across the weather-beaten façade of a medieval storefront. Their mission: To cover up the swirls of graffiti lining one of Rome's oldest neighborhoods. "It's just so sad and so devastating," said Rebecca Spitzmiller, an American lawyer living in Rome, who donned rubber gloves and a dust mask. "We're retaking Rome."
A wave of graffiti has splashed over Rome's center in the last few years, eliciting strong reactions from residents and tourists alike, WSJ's Margherita Stancati reports. Ms. Spitzmiller had tapped the diplomats to join the volunteer force of Italian and American students she's recruited in recent months. They clean up after graffiti artists who have swathed the city's palazzos and piazzas in tentacles of spray paint. The campaign has inspired cheers and approving headlines across Italy.
But some Romans see graffiti—an Italian word meaning scratches—as a way to reclaim the city from tourists and prevent it from languishing into a museum. And they don't always appreciate the Americans' meddling.
"Not all Romans perceive the city as tourists do," says Rocco, a 27-year-old who started spray-painting as a teenager and declined to give his last name. "This is my city, my home. The aim is not to deface the city but to acquire visibility, to show the city is alive." Graffiti artists say their expression is part of an ancient tradition. Tourists filing through the Colosseum's archways are still greeted by a phallic symbol, centuries after it was etched into the stone surface of the ancient arena....
JB Rock, a 31-year-old graffiti artist known for spray-painting elaborate designs in the heart of Rome's historical center, says that graffiti is a Roman rite that "existed before Jesus Christ." He says the U.S.-led cleanup campaign is doomed to fail. "We, the graffiti artists, are stronger-willed than the people who clean it up," says Mr. Rock. That kind of attitude is making life hard for Rome mayor Gianni Alemanno, who was elected in 2008 on a pledge to clean up the Italian capital. In February he raised fines for graffiti from a minimum of €25 to €300 and introduced a new law that ordered anyone caught spray-painting the capital to clean it up personally.
Helping to tackle the problem is an 18-member crew called the Urban Décor Squad. The city-financed group repainted nearly 10 square kilometers of wall space in 2006, the latest year for which figures are available. However, Mirko Giannotta, the squad's leader, says the crew is too small to keep up with Rome's prolific graffiti artists. "We're just a stopgap measure," he says. "We would need a team of 400 to even start tackling the problem."
An editorial in Corriere della Sera, Italy's biggest newspaper, scolded "fatalist Rome" for having surrendered to spray paint and praised Ms. Spitzmiller's squad for delivering "a good lesson in citizenship."
Ms. Spitzmiller gives speeches on tidiness at Italian schools. Her talks have converted some students from potential taggers into "maniacal cleaners," she says. She's introduced a new method—using oven cleaner—for removing spray paint from marble, travertine and other stone surfaces favored by the emperors and popes of Rome.....
Also on the side of graffiti artists is the sluggishness of modern Roman bureaucracy. The Urban Décor Squad can only remove graffiti on public property or buildings and statues designated as monuments.
Most of Rome's Baroque and Renaissance palazzos don't fall under the Urban Décor Squad's jurisdiction, leaving their owners to handle the cleanup. Those that live in the historic center need approval from national and municipal cultural superintendents to add a fresh coat of paint to their homes.
These officials routinely press residents to hire specialized painters, who mix paint to match a building's existing color, making sure the new patina is both period-specific and complementary to neighboring buildings.
The city often requires residents to repaint the entire façade, not just the graffiti-covered sections, to avoid multi-hued patchworks resulting from touch-up jobs. The total cost of repainting the façade of a four-story palazzo can run as high as €40,000.
Even the painters, however, must wrestle with bureaucratic obstacles. Lorenzo Lana, a painter who specializes in removing graffiti, recently spent nine months getting approval to remove a single tag. "The endless bureaucracy definitely puts people off," he says.
As a result, tags—the term for spray-painted pseudonyms—can remain for years, encouraging other vandals who compete for territory.
Some graffiti artists have repented. In Rome's Jewish ghetto, a stone slab has been covered with the black strokes of the tag "LAE" for more than a decade. The tag's author, 24-year-old Matias Lindemann, said he wrote the tag as a teenager to impress his friends. Now a tour guide, Mr. Lindemann bristles at the sight of graffiti, including his own.
"It's just degrading to our cultural heritage," he says. "Tourists might not have many chances to visit Rome and it's a real shame to give them such a bad impression."
It's amazing how the ineffective Italian bureaucracy prevents building and shop owners from cleaning up. They should allow quick patchy cover ups and kill the rule about having to match paint colors--until the trend for tagging and graffiti subsides. I remember in the Seventies this is how New York City handled it. They arrested and fined heavily the people doing the tagging. They outlawed selling spray bottles and large permanent markers to anyone under 21. They had crews working every day blasting the graffiti off of the subway cars (so bad you couldn't see out the windows... just like the Rome metro is today). Building owners could paint whatever color to cover up. If it happened again, they'd paint again... and again. A cottage industry grew from the effort--still today there are graffiti removal specialists working to keep buildings clean in Manhattan. (It's not perfect, but Manhattan is far better today than Rome is).
What also surprises me is the mentality of the people doing the graffiti, thinking it's somehow related to high art, or as important as historic architecture and ancient monuments. It's lofty of them to compare their sloppy spray paints (which can never last for eons of time) to ancient historic graffiti in a place like the Colosseum carved into stone by a slave or a gladiator or historic figure. What pretense! Most are just taggers, and while others do fairly complex artwork on buildings and walls all over Italy, they'd be better served as artists if they try to make their name in the legitimate art world--although since that world has favored graffiti "artists" in the past and make millions from reproducing their images, it's likely that this type won't stop any time soon. Rome can be beautiful again, but right now some of the best parts of it resemble the worst parts of the South Bronx in the Seventies. Sickening ugly.
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In the year 455 AD vandals sacked Rome, creating havoc and looting artistic treasures. More than 1,500 years later, they are still at it. Besides carving or painting graffiti on historic buildings, some have hammered statues in the public parks of Rome and even have thrown dye into the Trevi Fountain.
Up on Pincian Hill, a 19th century park, vandalism is commonplace. In May and June of 2014, 13 of the park's 230 busts had their noses broken and four were uprooted and thrown to the ground. In the past, vandals have even attacked Michaelangelo's Pietà stature with hammers and paint. I personally saw graffiti carved into the walls in the Vatican Museum's Raphael rooms. And in 2011, part of an Egyptian obelisk brought to Rome 2,000 years ago was covered in graffiti.
Last week, two idiotic young California women (21 and 25) broke away from their tour group (something they did a lot apparently) and managed to scratch their initials into the bricks of the 2000 year old Colosseum in Rome. Thankfully, other caring tourists saw them and called over the policia, and they were promptly arrested, but only after their deed was done, and after they took a selfie of them and their handiwork.
Using a coin, they scratched (carved is too refined a word for this) a J and an N into a brick wall on the first floor of the west side of the Colosseum. Six million tourists that flock to the Colosseum every year, most of which are fairly well behaved and respectful.
Police charged the women with 'aggravated damage on building of historical and artistic interest'. After they were caught, the women apologized to Piazza Dante police and Captain Lorenzo Iacobone. They said: 'We apologize for what we did. We regret it but we did not imagine it was something so serious. 'We'll remember for a lifetime.' Yea, sure. These shallow gals had no clue of the value or historic significance of what they were supposedly there to look at, to ponder, to admire.
This is my main complaint about the flood of tourists in Rome and the lack of true interest, sensitivity or knowledge in what they are putting on their "must see" lists of tourist spots to hit. Three hours of tourists waiting online to view the beauty of what the Vatican Museum holds... and they are just shoved through so no one at all can take any decent amount of time to admire the masterpieces, the way they should. There is a total lack of sensitivity. This is why people shout and pickpocket and shove in a holy place like St. Peters or the Pantheon. Most don't even know before they go to the Pantheon that it's a practicing Catholic Church!
A Russian tourist who carved his initials into the Colosseum in November was handed a four-month suspended sentence and a fine of 20,000 euros ($21,270) after opting for a speedy trial. It was the fifth such act of vandalism by tourists last year, including a Canadian tourist who tried to steal a piece of stone from the Colosseum hidden in his backpack! Things have gotten so bad with people carving initials and then taking selfies, that this week Rome banned selfie sticks from the Colosseum. I hope they chase away the hawkers all around the Colosseum selling the selfie sticks. We saw a lot of them when we were there... one even had a stock supply hidden in cracks in a wall across from the Colosseum.
Union leaders, citing recent acts of vandalism, have complained about the lack of personnel to properly monitor Rome‘s archaeological treasures with increasing numbers of visitors seeking to leave their trace on antiquity, causing incalculable damage. After all, 18,000 people a day visit the Colosseum alone. The walls around the edge of the Colosseum are covered with engraved names that were made by visitors when the Colosseum was left open. Now there is a metal barrier around the outside and only people with tickets can get in.
But despite the closed circuit cameras and vigilant custodians, there are still people from every corner of the globe who attempt to leave a mark. In recent years an Australian and his son were caught, as well as a teenager from Brazil and another from Canada. Because of Italian laws protecting minors, teens escape being fined because of their age. Many other Roman monuments are under attack too. In 2011 police caught an American tourist scaling a wall of the Colosseum to chip off pieces of marble.
Construction of the Colosseum began in 70 A.D. under the Roman Emperor Vespasian and was opened in 80 AD under his son Titus. Don't you think it should stand intact for another 2000 years? But Rome is not one building or a single statue. The entire city should be treated with the same respect and dignity as any true lover of art and history would do.
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It is the work of Pier Francesco Orsini, called Vicino (1528–1588), a patron of the arts, dedicated the garden to his wife Giulia Farnese, daughter of Galeazzo Farnese, Duke of Latera. What a strange garden to be created in memory of someone... one wonders, what strange memories did he have? It's said that Pirro Ligorio, designed the garden and its creatures, who later continued the work of Michelangelo at the Vatican. The gardens took 30 years to build, almost half of Orsini's short life.
To many, this place is fun, to others it's a scary place. The monsters are and beasts magnificent and huge. Hannibal's war elephant is carrying a just-killed Roman soldier in his trunk. Next is a tilting building, called Casa Storta or Twisted House. Push on one side to hold it up, push on the other and perhaps it will fall. The Titans are in mortal combat. Elsewhere, you'll see Pegasus taking flight. Winged griffins and a snake-legged goddess await to shock your soul.
There seems to be no real plan of the placement of the monstrosities... they are randomly positioned in the garden. The symmetry of garden design popular during the period it was built is nowhere to be seen. There is nothing orderly here, just surprise and shock. There is an inscription on one monument that says Just to set the heart free.
After Orsini’s death this strange garden was abandoned and fell into decay. The forest began to reclaim the place with vines, moss and lichen growing over his creatures. The half-camouflaged monsters must have seemed much more frightening to locals who happened upon the place, a source for many wild tales and superstitions about the monsters and the garden.
In 1951, Giovanni Bettini, a real estate agent, traveling around Italy discovered the place and saw the magic in it. He purchased and restored Bomarzo, freeing the beasts and monsters from the woodlands grasp. Today, the garden received 40,000 visitors a year.
Nonetheless, Vicino Orsini was a visionary when he created the garden. No one knows what was in his mind or heart--light or darkness--when he conceived of the creatures the garden possesses. He ordered the following to be cut into stone, “Thou, who enter this garden, be very attentive and tell me then if these marvels have been created to deceive visitors, or for the sake of art”.
Why go where the typical tourist is going when there are treasures like this in Italy? Just 42 miles from Rome awaits this fantasy...
Contatti Parco dei Mostri
loc. Giardino s.n.c
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The Palantine, Forum and Packing Up...
After the tourist lunch we headed back to il Palantino above the Foro Romano. There were lots of steps and some inclined cobble paths but we made it up without Babbo popping. (Huff, puff)
When we got toward the top we saw many ancient ruins... some very large but besides the few sign markers we knew little about what we were seeing. I had Rick Steve's audio tours on a little iPod that dropped out of my pocket back at Grotti di Castellana. Anyway, we did see the houses of Augustus and evil Livia. A lot of history here. And the views from the top were great... all the way to St. Peters.
The trouble came when we couldn't find our way down to the Forum way below. They don't make it easy to get out of these places... one way in and maybe two exits... far far away from each other. We heard that not too long ago, the Forum and Palatine were free... that's why when we tried to get into the Palatine previously, we found several entrance gates--all locked. Now, they funnel you to make lots of money. I really don't understand the Italian way of doing things. If they complain their aren't enough jobs, hire people to man these gates... have ticket sales at every one of them so tourists don't have to crown and funnel into one or two entrance points. You'd have more exits, too.
By the time we located a way out it actually dumped us near the Colosseum again. The wrong direction from where we needed to go. We were thinking we could walk back to the apartment after strolling through the Forum (keep dreaming). We made a wrong turn (to the right after coming down from Palatine, instead of left toward the rest of the Forum) so we didn't see much of the Forum at all. We we hot, sweaty and thirsty and decided to get back to start packing for home--by taxi. Besides, I don't think my poor legs could have taken any more of the incredibly irregular ancient paving stones we came upon down in the Forum--it was like Pompeii all over again. Walking these stones can be a real contact sport--where you contact the ground! At this late date I know when I am pushing my own body--and Lucas and Lisa--too hard.
Of course, the only taxi stand was on the other side of the Colosseum. More walking! We didn't see the typical TAXI sign but eagle-eyed Lucas spotted the mish-mosh huddle of taxis and saved the day. (Taxi stands don't always have a neat line of cabs cued waiting for a fare... often they are in a jumble and you have to ask "Chi e primo?"... Who's first?)
Taxi home... rest... pack... then we went to dinner at our favorite little Trastevere joint: Trattoria Vincenzo Alla Lungaretta. Cheap, good food, checkered tablecloths and nice waitress. We had some wine which also was good and cheap. During dinner we noticed a commotion outside. There was a protest march through the streets... candles, signs, priests, babies, moms and dads--all types. They were protesting Italy joining the war on ISIS in Iraq and Syria. The crowd walked past the restaurant for about 20 minutes.
A short walk back to the apartment and showers to save time in the morning. When tucking Lucas into bed he looked up at me with a tired grin and said, "Dad, I'm SO happy we came to Italy! It's been amazing!" That meant the world to me... this difficult, beautiful whirlwind of an adventure was worth it after all... We put a smile on his face and memories in his heart.
I wrote this at the airport where we had a lousy breakfast and are suffering with inadequate A\C again.
I pray the flight takes us back home safely...
Wings, Carry Us Home...
Morning came and we woke up with only 45 minutes to spare before the car service picked us up. We had Lucas shower the night before, so that would save time... and two bathrooms in this great little apartment meant that Lisa and I got ready tandem style. I woke our very sleepy Lucas up with 15 minutes to spare but in seconds he was bright and cheery and jumped right up once he realized this was Going Home day.
Our packing was done the night before and was lined up at the door... only our magical, amazing multi-device charger was left to stuff into a carry-on. When 6:30 came, Adele` was already waiting outside in our tiny piazza. Left keys on the table... pull to lock the door... hoist our 4 bags into the trunk of the sedan and we were in the darkness of Rome.
The streets were deserted with barely any cars... the least traffic we've seen since we've been here. From Trastevere (pronounced trast-EV-ehr-ee) to Fiuminco airport took about 30 minutes or so.
Then another 30 minutes or so getting through security, passport control and then luggage check. Not so bad. We were early for sure but better that than being late. We checked two bags this time, now also using our lightweight duffle that we originally packed for most of our clothing... a great way to free up our carry-ons for fragile gifts and mementos be were bringing back. In fact, the larger backpack carry-on (Lucas' luggage) was now stuffed with our day cooler-backpack we had brought along. (It turns out, we didn't buy as much to bring back as we had planned... more on that in a later post.)
We found breakfast... well, sort of... in a cafeteria area with huge glass windows, inappropriate Italian MTV blaring and a view over the runways and sunrise. Cold scrambled eggs, no milk for Lisa's coffee, airport cornettos and a Fanta for me (it's got real orange juice in it here... not like that God-awful sweet Fanta back home).
Lucas and I went into duty-free shop to find a last minute component for his classmates' gifts and discovered there is nothing "Free" about duty-free... all the base prices were 50 - 100% higher to start with... even a €3 bag of M&Ms cost €6.30! Sorry, but people who shop in Duty-Free are what Lucas and I call Shopping Zombies... buying anything, regardless of the actual value or even if they really need it, as long as the words FREE or SALE are reflecting in their lifeless eyes...
So, then came boarding. The lines were long and with no little air conditioning neither my sweat glands or my poor knees were looking forward to it. So I showed my handicapped card and we were allowed to pre-board, after the more obvious and more seriously handicapped people, of course. With all the trouble my legs gave me on this trip, I'm feeling less and less guilty about finally applying for the handicapped placard and putting it to good use. Lucas is funny... calling it my Old Man Powers!
The seats on our flight were exactly the same as the "extra leg room" seats Lisa insisted on paying for on our first flight. So I think this is another United Air rip-off.
The flight was long...over 10 hours versus 8 for the first flight. I think I watched 3 movies, several TV shows and napped a bit... and still I had time to spare. Lucas was a great world traveler, settling in quickly and keeping himself entertained with Mom's Kindle (Minecraft and drawing) and watching movies. No matter what food or snack was served he ate with gusto. He even used the bathroom! His only nervousness was with turbulence or during our very windy landing at Newark Airport. Hey, we all had white knuckles with that landing. Thank the Lord... he brought us home safely. (Terrorism was on our minds during this vacation... all that mess with ISIS got fired up right before we left on this trip).
The process for passports, baggage claim and customs was slow, but not terribly so... and besides, Newark airport was actually COOL. When we went outside to wait for our dear friends to pick us up, we all loved the 52 degree temps, even though were were in short sleeve shirts. My first time without sweating in three weeks!
A few texts back and forth and at last, the Bartels drove up waving like crazy, driving our Town & Country swagger-wagon... what a happy homecoming to see our great friends. Hugs and smiles and buoni amici... Nothing like that feeling. I let Denny drive because to my body's clock it felt like 9pm. English signs and American cars were a pleasant sight to see. We talked and laughed for the entire hour trip. A short stop for basics at the Stop and Shop and then HOME.
More kisses and hugs and dumping the luggage into the kitchen and we were home.
We ordered pizza... take out. Then settled in to watch some comedies on our Tivo that had been building up... no Big Bang Theory or AFV in Italy. Then around 8pm (2 am Roma time) we all enjoyed our own toilets, our own mattresses, our own pillows, Lucas cuddled with the Buddies that had watched over his bedroom while he was away... I cuddled with Lisa... and we all dropped off into a safe, homey sleep...
Sleep came fast after this great adventure...
--Jerry F. aka Babbo
Since we have been traveling in Italy we have noticed a pattern that we've run into many times. People keep invading our personal space... and this time I'm not talking about pickpockets. Italians, Russions, Arabs, and especially the Chinese just get in our way and in our faces... literally.
Today, on Palatine Hill for instance... we were sitting on a wall taking a drink break when some Russians sat to my right. Within a couple of minutes I became invisible to the guy next to me. Talking to his wife about the view to our left, he started pointing to it with his finger gesticulating about an inch in front of my right eye. Really? This went on for an uncomfortable 20 seconds or so... I was just getting ready to push his arm away when he took his hand down.
And you know when you're strolling in a crowd of people and a sort of natural right of way happens? You steer right of the oncoming person and they do the same... somehow you avoid each other. Nothing spoken. No directional signals. It just happens effortlessly.
Well, not here. I can't tell you how many times at the last second I realized the person is going to walk right into me... then I have to move very abruptly so they don't hit me. Lisa described it perfectly... they are like the zombies in Lucas' Minecraft game... walking without purpose or a way of seeing what they are about to crash into. It's as if they really don't see me. This is especially true when said zombie is glued to her cell phone or when gabbing with another zombie. The odd thing is how this will even happen in a broad, uncrowded piazza. You stroll across minding your own business, see someone strolling toward you, shift your path slightly and then notice they've shifted slightly and are aiming right at you. It's as if they have no peripheral vision or no vision at all.
Just today, while on line in the Colosseum gift shop, an Arabian looking man was pushing behind me as we were getting closer to the register. Too close... and no crowd behind pushing him. He was just a pusher. I had to step around Lucas for a second to hand the cashier money when he then moved in on Lucas... physically pushing his body into Lucas as if to speed things along! Imagine any adult invading a child's personal space like that! I very strongly took my hand and shoved his chest away from Lucas with a loud "Scusi"! At last, he backed off.
This sort of line shoving happens all the time... waiting on lines and taking your turn mean nothing here. Many have simply shoved us out of the way to get ahead. I recall at the Roman Baths in Pompeii where we had to take turns viewing a beautiful chamber--the frigidarium. Taking turns is pretty normal for us in the U.S. but not here. There were some especially pushy Italian and Chinese tourists that literally shoved us out of the way even though we were waiting on an ad hoc line--trying to take a turn to take a photo in a gated doorway not wide enough for even two people. Lucas even got shoved! That's when I kicked into gear and made certain he had a turn. A Chinese lady shoved me and I just held my ground (I have a large mass) leading Lucas in front of me. The Italian couple acted as if they were the only people there, barging through at least 8 people waiting in front of them.
Mmmm.... sort of reminds me of how cars kept passing me on the roads on blind curves even though I was going faster than the speed limit...
And then I think about the truly crowded situations where people tend to mass tighter than I'm used to in similar U.S. situations. I mean, here in Italy they will wear puffy jackets on warm days, bundle up with scarves, drink all sorts of digestive waters and medicinal milks, and many won't go onto windy beaches--for fear of catching a draft and getting sick. But yet, they crowd like lemmings spewing their germs on each other rather than backing off a bit to allow someone their spazio personale and some fresh air. And the bulk of the tourists are even worse. Shoving and pushing their way through a major tourist check-list item, just to say they saw the Sistine Chapel, Check. Or the Trevi Fountain, Check. Or the Leaning Tower, Check. Speeding and shoving through sites that years ago used to be done slowly to savor the amazing history or to absorb the art. Years ago I spent hour after hour savoring the Louvre, and went back several times. The visitors seemed to be art lovers, not just tourists. I recall seeing photos decades ago of people with binoculars lying on their backs on the Sistine Chapel floor with loads of room (and time) to ponder. Those years are gone...
It's all becoming too Disney-esque. (Another place I would never go back to).
The Pantheon And Campo Di Fiori
We just got back from a grueling day doing the tourist thing in this crowded, hot, chaotic city and we started to think about things we miss about Home. While lying on our comfy big bed in the coolness of proper air conditioning, we all contributed to this list...
a keyboard and real computer
milk from the cold dairy section
Mom's coffee machine (K-cup)
take-out food when we are too tired to cook
eating dinner before 8 pm
eating lunch at all
eating a breakfast that isn't just carbs and sugar
our own toilet... or public toilets with actual toilets or toilet seats
toilet paper rolls that aren't brown
very cold air conditioning
a good chef's knife
a home cooked meal that doesn't include pasta
a shaving mirror
Sunkist diet soda
Stop and Shop
--Jerry, Lisa & Lucas Finzi
Getting Romanized in Trastevere
After settling into our Trastevere Gensola apartment, we decided to head out into the neighborhood for dinner. Trastevere is known to be a real neighborhood where people actually live. It's much less touristy than the rest of Rome. Think of Soho or the west Village in Manhattan. There are little trattoria, osteria and ristorante around every little corner in this rabbit's warren of streets.
We settled on a rustic little place with a huge brick pizza oven and old peeling murals on the walls... shabby, but in a good way. We had lasagna (incredible), ravioli with sage & butter (amazing) and spicy pasta l'arrabiata for Lucas. The waitress thought she was doing Lucas a favor and told the chef not to make it too spicy. He was disappointed, the little spice demon. The food was amazing for cheap restaurant. During the meal street performers--a sexy, gypsy looking gir and guitar player--came to play, sing and dance. I remember loving this kind of thing years ago in Paris. Restaurant owners consider these strolling minstrels as a plus for their customers. It definitely adds to the ambiance.
The streets here are alive, mostly the under 30 crowd. It seems safe enough to walk around although you always come across people trying to sell you some nonsense or looking for a handout. The outdoor seating is alive and chatty... one fish joint down the street from our apartment was always packed. It was strange to see young people standing, drinking and eating fish at counters and bar height tables. I just love this area.
After dinner we went back to the apartment and slept the night away with the best air conditioning in all of Italy! Great Internet connections let me catch up on the blog and check my maps. The shower here has such strong water pressure it nearly blew my eyelids off. We enjoyed not having to catch a train, drive or park a car or worry about check out time, so we slept in a bit the next morning and rested before heading out.
First mission... to get cash from a Bancomat ATM machine (always tense because I worried about it eating my card). Next, we found a great shop with breads, pizzas, focaccia, pastries, sandwiches and drinks. We got a little of this and some more of that for a picnic down near the the river.
We strolled down to the Tiber River (100 feet away from our door) and crossed the bridge to Isola Tiburina, an island in the middle of the river. We had our picnic on the point at the tip of the island under a shady tree witha view of Ponte Rotto, the ruins of a 2400 year old Roman bridge with dragons carved on it--the oldest bridge in Rome. Sitting there at the point of the Isola, it reminded Lisa and I of a similar picnic we had on the pointe of Isle St Louis in Paris during our honeymoon. We both agreed it was much better to have Lucas with us this time around.
At the point of the island under a modern building, there is an ancient stone Roman galleon. We sat on the shallow steps and had our formaggio, foccacia, porcetta sandwiches and some pastries. The best time so far... simple, tasty, breezey and fantastic views, not to mention the fantastic company--each other. And we weren't driving or walking. Ahh... perfetto.
Well, I knew it couldn't last... NEXT we walked, and walked, and walked... we started seeing some Roman temples, a Roman theater and then toward something that was on Lucas' to-do list, but he was starting to chicken out in the last few minutes. We waited on line to put our hands in the mouth of the Bocca del Verita (mouth of truth). It is a huge carved face that you place your hand into, and IF you are truthful, your hand comes back out. If you tell lies, it bites your hand clean off.
The line was about 80 people or so, but was moving quickly enough. As we moved closer and closer, I noticed a look of intrepidation on Lucas' sweet face. I didn't want him to bail on us, so I leaned over and whispered, "Buddy... it's just a legend", his face cleared with a look of relief. But then I leaned in to his ear and said, "Or IS it?" He looked stunned for about a half second, but then got the joke and smiled... totally relaxed. That's my boy!
Luca's and Lisa's hands came out clean but I felt it starting to close just before I yanked my hand out. I remember seeing Gregory Peck doing this with Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday. Great fun.
After leaving the Bocca, more walking, walking, walking... then we bought some artisan gelati and walked over to sit on the steps of the Circus Maximus, the huge racetrack where chariot races were held. It's a fairly boring looking field with lots of dog poop nowadays, but you can imagine the huge structure holding tens of thousands of people watching with the Emperor's Palace just above. You'd think they'd install some chariot replicas and horses here, perhaps a few statues, with a stable off to the side and horses dressed as they would have been 2000 years ago. But alas, I don't run the world.
Anyway, our gelati melted way too fast and we grew tired of swatting flies, so we headed off to find the entrance to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. But we headed the wrong direction (we met other travelers doing the same thing) and walked up the back side of the Palatino... many gates from when it used to be free and open to the public all the time, but nowadays, all locked up tight. We couldn't get in. As they say in Maine, "Ya cahn't get thayer from heyah".
This is typical Italian thinking. They complain about no jobs but don't hire enough ticket takers to man the many entrances... so the tourists endure long, long lines to buy tickets or just to get into the place via the single funneled entrance on the Colosseum side of the of Palatine. We kept looking through gates and down at the ruins through fences and took pics, but no dice--couldn't get in. Then a kind policeman suggested by the time we'd walk around to the other side they'd be closing down anyway. They close one hour before sundown. Oh well, we'll wait til Saturday for the ruins and Colosseum... but now, a walk back to the apartment for us. Drinks along the way helped with the heat and the hills. Rome is very hilly. It was over 80 today. Unusual some Romans tell us, while most say it's normal for October.
So, back to the Gensola apartment and get the sweat off ourselves then out to dinner. The restaurant turned out to specialize in fish... immediately after sitting down, we were accosted by a fast talking tourista waiter (who wouldn't even let me speak Italian) with a three foot wide tray of "fresh fish"... sticking it right under our noses! Lucas was dying until he took it away. It smelled. And as he described each dead creature, he kept poking or patting them. No ice on the platter, and afterwards I noticed him placing it back onto a cart near the entrance to the dining room. Pretty gross.
Lisa loved her pasta with swordfish, Lucas had spicy rigatoni that he wasn't crazy about, and I took a chance and ordered tagliatelle pasta with shrimp (4 small ones, unshelled and un-veined), calamari (no flavor) and an overly fishy sauce. The wine was good though... a white Frescati. Bright and fresh. Dessert was a very dark chocolate soufflé. That was good.
At the end, fatigue and perhaps too much wine caused me to mispronounce "il conto, per favore" (check, please) as "il conte" (the Count). The waiter started in at me with a bad joke... "Oh, you want Count Dracula?" That was bad enough, but then right behind my back, he started to tell the Count Dracula nonsense--in Italian--to the Italians sitting to my rear, all laughing at my expense. Mind you, they weren't laughing with me... it was at me. What a weasel. I'm so glad I don't have to leave tips in Italy. This was also the most expensive meal we had in Italy. Not worth it.
Ok, trudge home over uneven cobbles with achy feet, a stop at the alimentari for supplies, then bed... gotta get up tomorrow early for our Vatican Tour. Dio Mio ... will my feet and sweat glands be able to take it?
I hope you enjoyed this article... ciao!
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