Things I learned in Rome (Le cose che ho imparato a Roma)
Editor’s Note: please don’t be mad at me for this blog post. It is a little over the top, but I just can’t help it. There are enough boring travel blogs out there. If off -color humor offends you, you should probably leave now. Or, if you don’t think I’m funny, you should just leave now. This isn’t a good fit for everybody. I know that. If you are really, really Republican, you should probably not read this. Or, if you don’t think it’s OK to poke fun at the Pope, same thing — hit your back button. Just a thought. But, as Penn (of Penn and Teller — the tall one) said, ‘Mike, you ARE funny! Thus encouraged, I offer you my take on my travels through Rome this past week. But don’t say you weren’t warned.
As readers of my little stories know, I just returned from a quick vacation in Rome. ROME, baaby! Where did we go? ROME.
I’ve never been to Rome. I didn’t know what to expect. When I think of Italy, for some reason I think of Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones muff diving a blonde German, looking up (his face slightly sticky, it seems to me) and saying, “AHHHHH, Venice!” And, while I wasn’t going anywhere near that northern city, that’s what I had in my brain.
Except, no muff diving.
And what a trip it was! From the Coliseum to the Vatican, from the Spanish Steps to the Trevi Fountain, with stops along the way at various cafes and restaurants, Matthew and I ate our way across the city.
But I did learn a few things. A few very important lessons that you should know, just in case you are venturing to the Eternal City.
1) The Pope peeps out his window into St. Peter’s Square. I’m not joking. Everyone knows what window is his. It’s famous. And, while standing in the beautiful square just in front of St. Peter’s Basilica, you naturally glance up at his sacred window.
AND THE CURTAINS MOVE. You can almost see a hand, bringing them just slightly back, covertly. Just enough for someone to look out onto the square. Who but the Pope? After all, it’s his room. What’s he looking for? Happy the faithful are filling the square? Making sure no one has slipped through in shorts? (They are a big no-no.) Eyeing his stage and thinking, “remember, bless right, bless center, bless left THEN pray.” Or, is he just bored and seeing who is out there?
2) My gaydar does not work in Rome (or for that matter in Europe). For those of you not familiar with this slang, let me enlighten you. “Gaydar” is the instinctual ability of one gay person to pick out another gay person. It’s innate, primal. But, for me (and I remember this from my other European trips) — it doesn’t work in Rome. Why? I think because ALL European men are stylish. Sorry straight American guys, but this is one area you lack. That’s why the popularity of shows like Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. But in Europe? Uh Uh. Men seem to have mirrors. Women, too, for that matter. And, just as you think, “AH HAH! THERE’S ONE!” His wife, girlfriend, hooker comes over and plants a french kiss right on his mouth while he fondles her breast. Foiled again.
I think this is why the Republicans (if I can go political for a moment) hate EUROPEANS. Do you remember a few years back? Obama was too EUROPEAN. I think it’s code for, “everyone looks gay.” Maybe I’m wrong. Whatever. My gaydar is totally blocked in Rome.
3) Romans do not appreciate American (my) humor about ancient history. They just look at you if you say, “I guess I don’t have to throw you from the Tarpeian Rock, that meal was good!” It seems after all these 2,500 years, they still don’t like references to the practice of hurling criminals off the Tarpeian Rock, onto the impaling stalagmites below. Or is it stalactites? I can never keep them straight. Whatever, they just stare at you. By the way, the Tarpeian Rock now has a parking lot at it’s base. Why I find this disturbing, I’m not sure — but we didn’t park there.
4) Restaurants do not hurry. Moreover, they just stare at you if you ask anything like, “Um, can you check on our food? It’s been 3.45 minutes.”
5) You tip your St. Regis butler throughout your stay, not at the end.
6) I pronounce Caprese salad correctly, despite being corrected in Orlando by a waiter at the Olive Garden. I now know I pronounce it correctly: I asked my Italian waiter. Hah! Suck on that, Olive Garden.
7) There is a different price for cappuccinos if you sit down to drink them outside the cafe than if you stand at the counter. I’m not sure why, but there is.
8) I don’t know what they do to cannolis in Rome, but they are freaking amazing.
9) No one jogs in Rome, outside, anyway. There is no room on the street. Jog on your hotel’s treadmill, or be prepared to get glared at. Though, it is amazing to glance up and see the Roman Forum as you pant by, or look down and realize the stone road you are jogging on is 2,500 years old.
10) The Venetian / Palazzo in Las Vegas are sister buildings to the Vatican, but with slots. St. Peter’s tomb looks very much like the high stakes room at the Palazzo, big marble columns and all. Both complexes take up about the same acreage. And, in both places, tourists stand in the middle of the walkways with their cell phones taking selfies. Myself included. True, the dress code is more stringent at the Vatican, and of course it is a religious site instead of a commercial one (shhh! I’m not making a commentary, here!) — but I’m telling you, they aren’t that different. I didn’t see an all you can eat buffet at the Vatican, but there was pizza. And, if you watch the Showtime series The Borgias, there have been all you can eat buffets in the past. Complete with hooker-stripper nuns. So, as I said, not that different than Vegas.
So there you have it. It was a truly wonderful trip, and one I would take again in a heart beat. Next time, I won’t bother packing jeans — just suits. I’ll probably need to have a different hairstyle — in Rome, every male seems to have my hair, and that just won’t do. I’ll definitely pack an extra suitcase to bring home the new clothes — shopping is amazing. And, last, I probably will pose with the fake levitating guy at the Trevi Fountain. Honestly, I’d of liked to have that picture. Where did my cheapness come from? And, how do they decide to be the fake levitating guy at the Trevi Fountain? Is it a kit? Is there a web site that sells different things you can be at tourist attractions? The “splat ball” kit being the most basic? (The vendor splats a rubber ball on a wood panel over and over again, it magically goes from a flat-splat to a ball shape after hitting the ground.) The “Gladiator Kit”? (You pose as a fake gladiator for photos. Again, also available at Caesar’s in Las Vegas.) And, my favorite, the “Painted Completely Gold Figure” Kit? (In this kit, the person is in a cloth -of -gold jump suit and has his face painted with gold paint. When the coin hits the can, they wave their hand mechanically). I’m not sure what they actually are. Maybe it’s a EUROPEAN thing?
In addition to the ten facts detailed above, I did learn a lot of history. I learned the name of Caesar’s mother, Aurelia, and our taxi went past the Via Aurelia, named for her. I thought that was cool. I learned Sulla was probably gay. And, most importantly, I learned the politics of Ancient Rome weren’t that much different than the politics of today.
Except, to my knowledge, we don’t nail people’s hands to the Forum door. Or, (in the case of the Third Founder of Rome, Gaius Marius) chop off our enemy’s heads and put them on pikes in front of the Forum.
At least, not yet.
That’s a EUROPEAN thing.