Ten wild things I didn’t know about Michelangelo

The advancements Michelangelo took art during the Renaissance stood out like the Sistine Chapel when compared with what came before and after him. It’s one of the many things I learned about Michelangelo during Luca’s five-hour Vatican tour. It was part of my new part-time gig: blogging for Through Eternity, one of the top tour companies in Rome. He told me so many things about history’s greatest sculptor that you won’t find in guidebooks or even “The Agony and the Ecstasy,” Michelangelo’s biography I devoured in my youth. Here are 10 things I learned that I will never forget:

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Myths of the gladiators: Through Eternity tours sets the record straight

I learned a lot about gladiators from books, particularly Daniel Mannix’s excellent 1958 tome, “The Way of the Gladiator.” However, I learned even more from Through Eternity’s Colosseum, Forum and Palatine Hill tour. Over five hours, it started with tours of the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. At the final stop at the Colosseum, tour guide Gracelyn Monaco blew away a lot of myths people have about the famed gladiators. Forget what you saw in the movie “Gladiator.” It was accurate but didn’t tell the whole story.

It wasn’t nearly as violent as the real thing.
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On the road in Serie D: 4th Division Trastevere flying high in Italy’s soccer lowlands

His 35-year-old face is weathered, in kind of a rugged Italian sort of way. He has a perpetual scruffy beard. Lines are forming around eyes that have seen too many patchy soccer fields, tiny towns and lonely roads.
Stefano Tajarol has the look of Serie D.
This is the bottom branch of Italy’s soccer tree, hanging just above the rubble of amateurism. Serie D has 162 teams spread from rural Sicily to the foothills of the Italian Alps. Francavilla. Ghivizzano. Darfo Boario. They are towns you’ll never see in a guide book. They’re all trying to climb atop one of nine divisions for promotion to Lega Pro, Italy’s third division where there are higher salaries, historic stadiums and — gasp! — television.
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New Year’s Eve in Stockholm: Sauna, Swedish meatballs and a beautiful blonde

Those views changed on this trip. Stockholm will never make the cover of Budget Travel magazine or the to-do lists of hygiene-challenged backpackers. It will, however, continue to be a world leader in progressive thinking and healthy living. I couldn’t think of a better place to end the last year on earth before Donald Trump blows it up after Xi Jinping flips him off on Twitter.
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“The Young Pope” will be major smash hit in U.S. — whether I’m seen in it or not

If you’re a fan of Jude Law and Diane Keaton, if you’re a fan of Oscar-winning director Paolo Sorrentino (“The Great Beauty”), if you’re a fan of twisting sacred institutions such as the Catholic Church, do not miss this series. Sorrentino, a native of Naples, turns the church inside out. As the real, modern Catholic Church makes major strides toward the modern world under current Pope Francis, Sorrentino’s pope wants the church to revert practically back to the Inquisition. Basically, Law plays the first pope who is a complete, 100 percent dick.
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