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Italy – Day #2 and 3

Yesterday we walked an itinerary sketched by Gianluca the night before. And it was a wonderful day.

My family went to the Great Synagogue for services. My son’s knee was hurting, so they came back to the hotel for a rest. We then walked to the Monument to Vittorio Emmanuele II and the tomb of the unknown soldier. One of the guards approached us and asked if we were Jewish; our son wears a yarmulke, so he was either a Jew or has bad taste in headgear. The guard was also a Jew and told us about his injuries in the first Gulf War. Throughout the day, strangers came up to us and identifyied themselves as Jews; this is not an experience we have in Boston, and it felt pretty good.

We then walked to the Trevi Fountain, which was more interesting than I’d remembered. Those of us who handle money on the Sabbath threw coins in, thus guaranteeing – according to the legend – that we would feel like gullible tourists. We ate in a random pizza place to everyone’s satisfaction, and then walked to the Pantheon, a beautiful building. It’s been a Christian church for about 1500 years, but it still feels like a pagan boast.

From there we went to the Piazza Navona, the shape of the chariot race track that once was there. The buskers were entertaining, and the coffee at the sidewalk cafe was priced, let’s say, enthusiastically. The piazza was yet another in a day of glorious public spaces.

We walked a little more, made it to the piazza where they burned Bruno (O burn, Bruno!) and then we pooped out and took the #8 home. We rested a bit and had a delicious Indian meal near the hotel in Trastavere.

Today we wandered through the Sunday morning flea market for about an hour. It is one gigantic, crowded market. (Interesting taxonomic item: Things people leave a flea market with. In our case, it was a toothbrush and two hair clips.)

We then went to the Colliseum. Being there forces you into multiple perspectives, none of which you can manage: What was it like to be a spectator? A victim? In another culture 2,000 years ago? (Note to tourists: When the guides outside tell you that for 8 euros per person they can skip you over the 45-minute wait, what they actually mean is that they can skip you over the 7-minute wait. Surprisingly, we didn’t fall for it.)

The Palatine is next door. You approach it by going up a walk at the crest of which is Titus’ Arch, a memorial to his victory over the Jews. “People like him were not allowed to go through it,” a guide said to the large crowd surrounding him, pointing to our son. Jews were barred from the gate until the Allies liberated Italy in 1945. Pretty amazing. But, the Roman Empire crumbled and the Jews are still here. So, now what does the arch memorialize, eh? In your face, Titus!

The vista then opens on a field of ruins in various states of repair. One can almost imagine what the scene must have looked like when the Empire was in flower and committed to being magnificent in public. Fascinating, moving, eerie.

We had lunch at a vegetarian restaurant that had been recommended to us: Marguta (Via Marguta, 118). It was fancier and more expensive than we’d expected, but it was also delicious.

From there we wandered through the Piazza del Popolo (all spellings approximate). The exhibit of models of Leonardo’s inventions was actually not the rip-off I anticipated, although I’m really not convinced he invented the bicycle. We wandered a bit more and came back to the hotel, only to find some open wifi. Woohoo! Gotta love the open wifi. (Thank you, Belkin54g!)

The weather has been perfect and the city is continuously surprising. What a great use of 2,000 years. [Tags: ]

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8 Responses to “Italy – Day #2 and 3”

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