Another Earthquake hits Italy: A prime minister resigns and the EU nervously waits

Prime minister Matteo Renzi’s resignation Monday following Sunday’s runaway defeat of his referendum has left Italy’s political future wildly up in the air. In Italian politics, that’s a little like saying the Ganges River is more filthy than usual. However, it’s true. Italy may be another domino that falls in the European Union, which is starting to reveal cracks like a windshield of a car driving through a war zone.
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Budapest: Coming in from the cold one thermal bath at a time

Welcome to life in Budapest. It’s where thermal baths are part of the lifestyle, not just a luxury taken on weekend getaways as Marina and I recently took. Budapest has had a brutal, violent past. However, it is lucky in one regard. It sits atop a geological fault where nearly 8 million gallons of water, in varying degrees of sensually warm temperatures, pour from 123 thermal and 400 mineral springs.
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Cooking Thanksgiving in Rome turns out to be a real turkey

Our Thanksgiving meal, our first venture into full-scale American hospitality, was just short of an apocalypse. I used the word “short” because I heard no documented reports of botulism. We learned that life as an ex-pat isn’t always like “Under a Tuscan Sun.” Frances Mayes never mentioned anything about cleaning up day-old chicory off a floor.
First, putting on a Thanksgiving affair in Rome is an ordeal nothing short of packing for relocation to Mercury.
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Life as an extra is as dull as a cardinal’s but working with actor Jude Law makes it worth it

Being an extra is like being a bird. You do nothing for hours and then must provide a few moments of window dressing before flying away without being noticed. Sometimes you are. Take the cardinal whose cell phone went off twice during one of Law’s speeches. Or the cardinal who wouldn’t stop talking after “ACTION!”
Or me blowing a scene with one turn.
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Italian rugby: The new trend goes All Black with visit from New Zealand power

As I sat in jam-packed Curva Sud, the A.S. Roma ultras’ one-time home that has long since gone quiet, I sensed for the first time this growing phenomenon on the Italian sporting scene. Italy, the winner of four soccer World Cups and where soccer rivalries resemble provincial wars, has gone rugby mad. And on Saturday, the rabid rugby fans were treated to the Alabama Crimson Tide of world rugby. New Zealand’s All Blacks won the last two World Cups in 2011 and 2015. They won the inaugural one in 1987.
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Reaction in Italy soothing as I wonder when sun will rise again

When you’re retired in Rome, you don’t have many bad days. Mine usually consist of not getting enough foam in my cappuccino or getting in a fight with my landlady. Stress and anger left my life when I left America nearly three years ago. But for one horrific 12-hour stretch over Tuesday and Wednesday, I was in the middle of a country I no longer knew. I was trying to ward off a right-wing mob scene’s maniacal fervor of uneducated, fascist, sexist and racist Americans from towns I’ve never heard of and now never want to visit. Donald Trump’s election was the worst day of my life since 9-11.
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Singing “Our Father” in Latin on camera is too much for this extra in “The Young Pope”

Have you ever read Latin? It reads like something off an Egyptian wall. It’s a language nearly as dead as Gaelic. Even the Catholic Church campaigned to bring it back into services around the world.
Now try memorizing it.
Now try singing it.
Now try singing it for TV cameras which are currently showing to millions of people around Europe and, in February, all over the U.S. It is my second scene of my “acting” debut. I am one of 120 men dressed like Vatican cardinals inside a hangar-sized studio in Cinecitta, Rome’s legendary old movie complex.
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Playing an extra in “The Young Pope” teaches me the cardinal rules of film business

I play an American cardinal, one of the many nameless bodies that form a fluid red or black background as Jude Law maneuvers through scenes. We’re shooting a breakfast scene and I’m sitting two chairs down from a cardinal who’s about to die. My job is to eat slowly, look over calmly and appear expressionless as the cardinal falls to the floor. But did I eat too many grapes? Could Sorrentino tell I was choking? I KNEW I should’ve eaten the breakfast roll!
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My five favorite restaurants in Rome

Cutting down to five required some ground rules. I ruled out pizzerias. I wrote about those in May. I also included nothing that’s listed in Lonely Planet. I trust Lonely Planet’s restaurant recommendations but I’ve walked on every path in Rome. The best restaurants are on the paths less beaten, even by LP. Making it easier is including a disclaimer that these may not be the five best in Rome. They may not even be my five favorite if I went back to all of them with a more critical eye. I have a whole new list by Jan. 1. The depth of restaurants in Rome is that good.
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Cleaning day: Clearing my past in Denver clears my future in Rome

The purpose of the trip was to downsize. Since moving to Rome in January 2014, Public Storage twice jacked up my rent from $100 a month to the larcenous price of $158. Emptying it will save me nearly $2,000 a year. Hell, that’s almost as much as I spend on wine. Besides, I will not pay $158 a month for furniture I’ll never sit on again and clothes I’ll never wear again. What good are college sweatshirts in Rome? I look so American I could have hopped off a Chevrolet commercial. If I walk around in a USC sweatshirt, ’ll look like I hopped off an American Express bus.
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