Wednesday, January 21, 2009

In Boca al Lupo #44, swindlers in Rome and the US consulate

21 Gennaio
I have just returned from another American in Rome (click on the slide show at the end of this post) sightseeing trip with a visit to the US embassy to try and get another piece of the 1000 piece puzzle which is the licensing of my car. I saw some new sights and others which merit way more than 1 visit. I have put a slide show here which shows many of these wonderfully historic areas. Many of my favorite finds come from getting purposefully lost or following mapquest to the wrong spot. One of these involves the church called St Nicola in carcere (santa claus' prison). I was trying to find the prison which legend holds was the prison where St. Paul and St. Peter were held before their execution. (Above, see how the cross is inverted to signify Peter's upside down crucifixion.) I plugged S. Pietro in Carcere into mapquest and it gave me the address for the former church, which I hadn't even heard of. I took a guided tour of this little church which used the remains of 3 ancient greco-roman temples as its foundation. It has a wonderful statue of Jesus laying "dead" as if in his tomb which is the first such rendering I have ever seen. Nearby are the mouth of truth (la boca della verita') made "more" famous by Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn, and the temples to victorious Hercules and the god Portuna. Just across the street is a marvelous 4 arced structure which was an ancient entrance to a market with a peaceful church just beyond. Continuing upward from the arch and onto the street S. Teodoro, you arrive at the orthodox church of the same name which is really worth a quick visit. Furthur on you pass the Belgian embassy before rejoining the major sites of the Roman forum and mamertine prison (finally).
I also visited St. Peters which you should see every time you go to Rome, if for nothing else to see my favorite sculpture in the world "La Pieta". It is a miracle wrought of marble! I discovered a new spot where you can stand on either side of St. Peter's Square and all the columns of the entrance are perfectly in alignment, so that you only see one column in every row. 2 steps to the right or left and you see all 4 in each row. Architecturally interesting. See above.
The presepe or creche was still up as was the pope's christmas tree. Finally, Castel S. Angelo is really worth a 2 1/2 hour visit with the audiotour. This was the refuge for the popes in times of siege or war and has a private, protected walkway to the vatican. It started life as Hadrian's tomb. In front of the castle is the Ponte Sant' Angelo, the 1st bridge which connected the vatican side (it wasn't built yet) to the rest of Rome. It is now decorated with statues of angels holding the instruments of the passion of Christ. The current statues, made by students of Bernini, beat the severed heads the popes used to hang on the bridge to discourage crime!
The US embassy experience was wonderful. Everyone was helpful, nice and polite; magari era' cosi a Chicago!!! They gave me a piece of paper, signed and sealed by the nice foreign service worker from america, saying I was really here in Italy with my car and I was planning to stay. This is his second post in the foreign service, having spent 35 years in the armed services previously. I said, "Ah, so this is your hardship post!" He told me his first assignment was Baghdad. OK, he deserves a bit of time in Rome. Next, he is off to the Marshall Islands to be their economist. He likes to scuba, not too bad a spot with Bikini atoll a bit away, which I hear is now pristine and one of the best scuba spots in the world.
A bit about the roman restaurants. I visited Mama Angelina's which was recommended highly by an italian guide. It was just OK. I am not sure I trust any of the published food guides here. Never order the tourist menu is my advice when you come here and concentrate on the primos in Rome or 1st courses which are famous. I also took a side trip to Trastevere and found a cute enoteca which is worth a visit for lunch and a glass of vino (pictured).
I got taken by a swindler in Rome and feel like I must unburden my stupid soul and help out those who might be as gullible as me. This is the 2nd such occurrence I know of where someone asks for money for gasoline, saying (in the other case he was a surgeon who had left his credit cards at home) and in my case a fashion mogul from Milan who asked for directions, which I provided and then "offered me" a 1600 euro leather gift which he was able to sample out to me because I was so nice and accessible (gullible). He gave me this "antelope skin" jacket and then asked me for money for gas. I gave him 25 euros, since he was sooo generous, only later checking the true quality of the jacket and finding it made of some sort of artificial toxic substance. I gave it to a homeless person to sell or use. (It wasn't really toxic). Anyway, there are all sorts of swindlers and not just the pickpockets in Rome, so don't give anybody driving a volkswagen passat any gas money. What an idiot I was.
In my continuing series of advisories, I must tell all my american friends, especially the guys, to search out a song by the Limeliters called "Vasectomy". I laughed every verse.
Good luck to our new president! They played his inaugural address in the bus from Rome to Ascoli, but it was too soft to hear. I heard it last night online. What a mess he has inherited. Hopefully, we can encourage our congress that pork is finished and crises take precedence. In Boca al Lupo means "in the mouth of the wolf", a strange way for the italians to wish good luck, but quite appropriate in this situation. The response is Crepi il lupo, which means, "may the wolf die".
One more story to tell. I explained the chinese fire drill to Raffa and friends and they thought that was the best idea in the world. They successfully performed the maneuver in downtown Ascoli in view of the carabinieri who promptly pulled them over thinking they must have lost a few screws or had drunk a few too many screwdrivers. They were irritated at first, but laughed after the explanation and the negative breathalyzer test. A new american fad arrives in the Marche, soon to spread throughout Italy!
I got back and with the 3 days of dry weather, I was able to hoe a couple of rows in the vineyard before it started raining again.
Finally, they are refilling the pool today after their last mishap. At least the water will be fresh. Remember, they didn't provide
the pool cover until a couple of weeks ago and the water quality had suffered a bit.
Rome slide show
Sorry about the music, it got uploaded from my itunes.

1 comment:

Richard Badalamente said...

The swindlers are after a bit more in Palermo. My wife and I were trying to find a place to park. The garbage workers were on strike. Cars were parked everywhere, double parked, parked on sidewalks and corners of sidewalks. Any space that wasn't taken by a car was crowded with piles of garbage baking in the noon sun. As we sat bumper-to-bumper in the middle of the piazza, a scruffy looking fellow came to my window and told me to give him my keys and he'd park the car for me. He held out his hand. "I do as a courtesy, my friend."
"Non sono pazzo, paesano," I replied, and he sauntered off looking for someone else seeking courtesy in Palermo.