I’m temped to call this a Spaghetti Western.
For the first time, I am joining Amy at the end of one of her business travels. She casually suggested, after her meeting in Berlin, that I “…meet her in Rome”. Kinda like a co-worker saying, “Ya wanna get a beer after work?”. Such is the life of a business traveler.
I have gone with Amy to Europe twice without causing an international incident. Although it was close in Madrid one time. I am, proudly, an American traveler. I’m here for the party. I have no problem hitting all the tourist spots. There are reasons they’re tourist spots…most notable, they are near where the pickpockets live. When traveling in Europe one is always warned of pickpockets. It is a skill that has been lost in America, like cursive writing and bidet design. In America we have done away with the pickpocket problem by introducing a plan where the government takes your money and gives it to people who call the 800 number to tell a lawyer they have been denied benefits…
Where was I? Oh yeah.
I also make no attempt to “blend in”. I remember my brother, who was an airline pilot, explaining this to my Mom. His normal outfit for daily wear was an overcoat, fake round eyeglasses and a hat pulled down on his head. Sorta like the bad guy in the first Indiana Jones movie. He said it made him look German and nobody would bother him.
I, on the other hand, love to be “bothered” by the local citizenry (as long as it doesn’t involve their hand in my pocket…without permission). I remember standing in front of the famous clock in Prague telling a carriage driver all about growing up in California. I think he thought I was talking to the horse.
I’m glad to be going to Rome. I already have some experience with “real” Italians, as opposed to New Jersey Italians. Many, many…many years ago I worked on a cruise ship that had an all Italian crew. They taught me many pick-up lines and curse words in Italian. I’ve also been to Florence and Tuscany (where I commented that it looks just like Southern California…and earned myself a punch in the arm).
These experiences made me realize I must prepare for this trip. The first thing I have to do is stop eating for the next few days. There is a saying around the dinner table in Italy mangi – mangi – mangi…which means “has your stomach exploded yet?” Italians eat the Mediterranean Diet which magically allows one to eat 26 pounds of pasta at a sitting and never gain any weight. It also only works on Italians…sorry Hollywood.
Rome became well known as a center of high-cuisine, since some of the best chefs worked for the popes. A chef, working for Pius IV in the Vatican in 1570 wrote a cookbook Opera dell’arte del cucinare. In the book he describes recipes, cooking techniques and tools, giving the first known picture of a fork. It also explains singing waiters.
I’m excited to see the Coliseum (site of the first Super Bowl), The Circus Maximus (although I don’t gamble) and the Spanish Steps.
Amy loves the Spanish Steps. Her favorite hotel in Rome is at the top of the Spanish Steps. I felt the need to educate myself on Spanish Steps – Facts and Fantasies.
The Spanish steps have their own Wikipedia page..as do all famous places like the Bunny Ranch and the Corn Palace. The Spanish Steps is a real wide staircase. It leads to a church. They started planning it in 1580 and finally finished it in 1717.
And you thought road construction was slow in the US.
Evidently it took the reigns of two or three Popes to get this thing done. Who knew they were interested in civil engineering too? In the Piazza di Spagna at the base is the fountain called Fontana della Barcaccia (“Fountain of the ugly Boat”). John Keats (who wrote most of ABBA’s songs) had an apartment nearby. The first McDonalds in Italy opened there in 1986 officially ending the decline and fall of the Roman Empire.
Unfortunately no one seems to know why it is called the Spanish Steps.