Archive for ‘General Travel’

Four years in Rome: An anniversary ode to my favorite city in the whole world

Today marks my fourth anniversary of moving to Rome. Much has changed since I arrived with a duffel bag, two backpacks and a roller bag. I’ve met the woman I hope to spend my life with, my Italian has improved to where I naturally speak it before English and I’m bitching about Rome’s lousy public services.
But no, the honeymoon hasn’t worn off. I still wake up and take my cappuccino to my terrace and get weepy thinking how lucky I am to live in this paradise.
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New Year’s Eve in Morocco: A call to prayer for all mankind as Islam beckons

We picked Fez, not only because it’s a direct 2 ½-hour Air Arabia flight from Rome but it has the world’s largest medina. No place on earth is there a larger car-free zone than Fez’s 540-acre medina where 155,000 people live in a maze of twisty, narrow alleys that seemingly never lead to an exit.
I’d been to Fez before. Morocco was my first third world country when I backpacked around the world for a year in 1978-79. Back then, Fez’s medina was a dark, dusty, scary cauldron of aggressive touts, beggars and thieves.
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Christmas gift list for 2017: Guess who’s been the most naughty and not nice at all

Buon Natale tutti! Merry Christmas everyone from the Eternal City where Santa Claus decided to take up residence this year. Turns out, the North Pole heated up to where that long white beard and big red suit are just too warm. I just saw him walking through Piazza Navona on his way to see his elves in their workshop (they split, too) and I told him many rednecks, er, people in America think the higher temperatures are just cyclical.
“Cycle this,” he said as he stormed by me.
Well, I followed him and peeked at his gift list for all those naughty and nice. Turns out, the naughty ones are getting the most gifts which is why his first stop will be Washington. No one on Earth was more naughty this year than that Talking Yam we have in the White House.
So here’s the list. I’m sorry for ruining the surprises but after the year we all had, we’ve had enough of surprises.
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Matera: World’s third oldest city rocks Basilicata in more ways than one

Matera is the world’s third oldest city, according to Traveller magazine. Only Aleppo, Syria, and Jericho, Palestine, are older. So unless you like your pizza in a war zone, Matera is the place to explore. Matera was first inhabited in the Paleolithic Era which ended about 10,000 B.C. Back then, Matera’s inhabitants were discovering stone tools and how to hunt and gather. It has been continuously inhabited for the last 9,000 years. However, the neighborhood where I’m standing and where my Marina and I are staying, wasn’t around less than 40 years ago. It was abandoned, an empty shell of a novelty.
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AS Roma bringing joy to this once doomsday fan as it shocks Champions League

Today, as the season finishes its first trimester, I am experiencing something new. It’s something all fans seek and few sportswriters can fully comprehend until they experience it themselves.
Pride.
I now understand what drives fans to paint their faces in school colors, wear team jerseys when they’re 50 years old and write angry emails to sportswriters. My AS Roma is, as the cliche goes, surprising everyone but itself. It has turned everyone’s doomsday prediction, including mine, into so much shredded newsprint.
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In the art capital of the world, a small shop in Rome keeps a dying art alive

Carpenters, cobblers and tailors can still be found all over Rome. Gold and silver artisans? They’ve gone the way of the horse and buggy. But like the one or two horse and buggies that clop through my Testaccio neighborhood to cart tourists around nearby Centro Storico, some gold and silver artisans remain. They’re just not for tourists. They have a market ranging from learned art collectors to the Vatican.
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Sexual harassment in Italy: So if you think it’s real awful in the United States …

The sexual harassment epidemic that is encompassing the United States like a new STD isn’t confined to the U.S. In 2014 the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights surveyed 42,000 women encompassing every EU country. It reported that one out of every three women had experienced some kind of sexual violence. That includes sexual harassment.
What’s true in the U.S. is true all over the world: Men are pigs.
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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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