A new soccer season beckons and Rome’s fans still disgrace the city

This city has the worst soccer fans in Europe.

For a tip of the fan base’s melting iceberg, consider Roma opens its Serie A, or national league, season Saturday at home against Udinese. Roma is picked as the best bet to stop Juventus’ string of five straight titles. It’s the last season for Francesco Totti, the native son who will spend his 25th season wearing the Roma jersey and is the most popular figure in Rome since Augustus. Yet 72,000-seat Olympic Stadium Saturday will not sell out. They are frantically selling individual seats in Curva Sud, which is usually filled cheek to cheek three hours before kickoff. As of Tuesday they had sold only 17,000 season tickets, a shocking number considering the passion I see in this city rivals that of the Denver Broncos’ in my old stomping grounds.
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Think Trump would be disaster? Ask Italy after Bunga Bunga Berlusconi

Silvio Berlusconi was Italy’s prime minister three times for nine years, from 1994-95, 2001-06 and 2008-11. He had all the trappings of Donald Trump before he took office — and proceeded to run the entire Italian peninsula into the Mediterranean. I wanted to write this as a warning to all the racist, fascist, sexist, uneducated, angry white men who will vote for Trump what could lay ahead.
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Trastevere: From a violent, fiery past to Rome’s giant souvenir stand

Last week I learned a lot about Trastevere’s history going way past the ‘70s. It goes back to before the birth of Christ, to the height of the Roman Empire. Back then Trastevere was a neighborhood of slaves, violence and graft. I went with Rome Explorers, a wonderful, learned Meetup group dedicated to the history and nature of Rome and beyond. Leading the group again was Massimiliano “Max” Francia (guideromax@virgilio.it), Rome’s ubur guide whose library of Roman history could fill the Colosseum.
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What I miss about U.S. — and what I do to compensate in Rome

People ask me that all the time. What do you miss? They are little things, not big things. I never knew happiness until I woke up with a cappuccino on my terrace looking out at the Tiber River with birds chirping and then deciding what pizzeria I want to eat at that night.
But some things America can provide that Italy can not. However, I have learned to compensate.
So for those dreaming of a life in the bella paese, here’s a list of things that occasionally cross my mind, like the train passing your window every day back home and you always took for granted.
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A weekend in Spain: Confessions of a Marriott whore

We settled on Denia, a town in Spain I’d never heard of which, if you’re seeking a path less beaten, is always a good sign. A map showed it’s on Spain’s famed Costa Bianca, on the point of a peninsula just across the Gulf of Valencia from hip Ibiza. On its website, the Marriott’s swimming pool looked like something out of a Las Vegas architect’s sexual fantasy. We were sold. I bought two more nights for a Wednesday through Saturday stay. It was the perfect extended weekend in a sexy part of the world.
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Talking to Michigan State sports journalism students brings back memories, advice for a new age

Tuesday I spoke to a group of sports journalist students from Michigan State University. Twenty-two students are traveling for a month to Paris and Rome with weekend jaunts around Europe in between. We met in the Palazzo del Banco di Santo Spirito, built in the 1600s to house the Vatican Bank. Just a Frisbee throw from Piazza Navona, the Baroque palace with the four columns bordering the front door is now home to study abroad offices, language programs and the Belize Embassy. It sure beat sitting in a featureless, plaster box at University of Nevada-Las Vegas.
I’ve spoken to journalism classes at numerous colleges. I can usually tell the quality of students by the quality of questions. Michigan State’s students get it. They asked how Italy has changed me. They asked what was the most memorable sports event I ever covered in the U.S. They asked what I thought of the direction of writing in American journalism.
At UNLV, they asked me what Mike Tyson is like.
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Nice another in a long list of great weekend getaways from Rome

EasyJet is the greatest boon to European travel since the sidewalk crepe stand.
Which is why celebrating birthdays in Europe is so special. In March I spent my birthday in Sicily. This past weekend I took my girlfriend to Nice for her birthday. I’d pat myself on the back and say I’m not a cheap boyfriend but, in fact, the round trip tickets for two of us was all of 138 euros. That’s 69 each. Sixty-nine euros on a U.S. airline sometimes won’t even pay for your stored luggage.
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Police ride around Rome a glimpse inside a non-violent city — but watch your wallet

Salimbene and Mastrangelo were going to further impress upon me the safety of my adopted city. I’ve always been fascinated by the soft underbelly of touristy towns. What’s it like behind the back-lit monuments, art galleries and romantic piazzas? Where’s the graft? The violence? The danger?
Growing up in America, you can find that in any city. Every metropolitan area in the U.S. has neighborhoods where guns are rampant and murder is common. For the last 10 years, Detroit, a city of 700,000 people, has averaged 345 murders. Oakland, Calif., (pop. 404,000) has averaged 106, Baltimore (pop. 622,000) 234. From 1990-2014 I lived in Denver. It averaged about 150 murders a year.
Rome, with a population of 2.6 million, has averaged 35. Two years ago it had only 27.
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Monti Sibillini is Italy’s answer to New England in fall

I just returned from three days in one of many areas of Italy that Americans have not overrun. The 270-square-mile park straddles the underrated regions of Umbria and Le Marche east of Tuscany. Sibillini has massive green meadows stretching between mountains bearing trees with multi-colored leaves. Purple, red and yellow wildflowers line a hiking path that forms a 75-mile loop around the entire park. Spaced somewhat evenly around the park are nine rifugios, an Italian shelter with great beds and fantastic meals.
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My five best pizzerias in Rome: 72 Ore tops the list

In Rome, all the ingredients are fresh. The tomatoes taste like apples. The mozzarella has bite. The prosciutto is lean. Finish a pizza and the tin plate does not have a spot of grease. You could wash a doily on it. In Rome, pizza is almost like health food. So here are the five pizzerias I go when I get a craving, which hits only slightly less often than a heroin addict itches the inside of his arm. Keep in mind, some places are based on just one favorite pizza. I have gone to these many times and some dropped off the list and others were added. It’s kind of like a college football poll. Except my pizza poll is more important.
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