Archive for ‘General Travel’

Apocalypse now: Why Italy flamed out of World Cup qualifying for first time since 1958

I’m 61 years old. I was a sportswriter for 40 years and have followed sports since the early 1960s. I don’t recall one nation embarrassing itself on a field of play as Italy did this year in World Cup qualifying. Its 0-0 draw with Sweden in Milan Monday, after losing 1-0 Friday on the road, sealed a fate unthinkable just last year. Italy, a four-time World Cup champion, has gone from taking Germany to a shootout in the quarterfinals of the European Championships to not qualifying for the World Cup for the first time since 1958.

The Baths of Caracalla: But really, how clean were the Ancient Romans?

I recently toured Rome’s most famous baths, the second largest in Ancient Rome. Terme di Caracalla (Baths of Caracalla), less than a mile southeast of Circo Massimo, are only a mile from my apartment. I pass them all the time. On a warm fall day, I took the bus up the street and got off next to the complex.
The Terme di Caracalla look like a sandstone Legoland after your kid went at it with a 9-iron. Tall yellowish towers are interspersed with jagged walls enclosing massive halls with tiled floors.
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Naples: Italy’s most chaotic city is a walk through a violent past via two tough neighborhoods

Naples is Italy’s slut. Its best days are in the past but she still has a lusty air about her. She looks sweaty and tired and is scruffy around the edges. A cigarette hangs from the corner of her mouth. Yet in a moment’s notice she can turn on the charm and be the funnest day you’ll ever have. And after a few glasses of Aglianico wine, she starts looking pretty good again.
As Naples digressed, Italy’s famous proverb for its third-largest city still holds true:
“See Naples and die.”
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La Molisana pasta bash puts Italy’s favorite food in Rome train station

La Molisana is a 105-year-old pasta company in Molise, the small, nature-loving region on the Adriatic Sea 150 miles east of Rome. Last week La Molisana opened a shop in, of all places, Rome’s Termini train station. In the middle of the main floor with people running around to tracks in the country’s largest train station is a little shop packed with pasta of every conceivable shape. It’s an ingenious marketing strategy and they hired Marina Pascucci, my girlfriend and uber photographer, to take photos of the opening. I tagged along to … well, eat.
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In Sicily: In search of the world’s best cannoli

It was Columbus Day Monday, that day when Americans argue over whether Italy’s finest explorer, Christopher Columbus, discovered America or was it the indigenous people who were already there. Controversy aside, setting sail across the Atlantic in the 15th century took some major palle and set up some pretty fair exploration from Italians. Fueled by their quest for knowledge, if not matching their courage, I set out on my own exploration Saturday night. It was a quest that would inspire mankind and feed a hunger in me. Call it in search of the best cannoli in Sicily.
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Las Vegas shooting reminds us all in Italy how stricter gun laws equal fewer deaths

It doesn’t take the brain of a Nobel Peace Prize winner to figure it out — although it may take a brain bigger than the average NRA member. It’s gun laws. Italy’s gun laws are strict; the United States’ are … well, they barely have them.
Thirteen U.S. states don’t even have background checks. The states that require them often take only minutes on a computer to approve. You can buy a gun for as little as $100, making them the cheapest in the world. The U.S. has 54,000 gun stores with 98 percent of the population living within 10 miles of one. Besides, who in America doesn’t live within 10 miles of a Walmart? Yes, you can buy guns there, too. The number of gun shows range from 2,000-5,200 per year. This is a big reason why there is 1.13 guns per every American.
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Driving in Rome: After a year driving in “the most dangerous city in Europe,” I have a surprise

I retired to Rome 3 ½ years ago knowing it — and Italy — has the same reputation for driving as Saudi Arabia does for crime. It’s unforgiving. Rome is Daytona on cobblestones. When you get into a car in Rome, you bring your insurance, your blood type and your will. Statistics backed up its reputation. As recently as 2008, the United Kingdom-based Road Safety Insurance Foundation called Rome the most dangerous city in Europe. In 2006, Rome had 21,000 collisions resulting in 28,000 injuries and 230 deaths. According to the World Health Organization, that was double per capita of the United Kingdom and four times that of Netherlands.
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Newport, Rhode Island: The sailor’s mecca isn’t just for the rich and famous but it certainly looks the part

Marina and I finished our nine-day New England trip with a visit to some friends who are living that dream. Gretchen and Peter Bloom have lived in Newport off and on since 1988. I met them in Rome where they lived for 17 years and escaped every sweltering summer to Newport. They haven’t changed their routine since moving from Rome to Washington two years ago.
She’s retired from the World Food Program and Peter, a native of Providence, R.I., 40 miles up the road, is retired from USAID. Between the two, they’ve been to 123 countries, including 40 in Africa. They lived in Sri Lanka. Yet there is no place in the world — not Rome, not London, not the beaches of Thailand — they’d rather be than Newport.
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