Roman waiters’ service puts their American counterparts to shame

Let me tell you how to wait a table. It is courtesy of one Marco Uras, a terrific veteran waiter at Mamma Venerina, one of my favorite restaurants in my old neighborhood, Prati, near the Vatican. Uras has been a waiter for 30 years dating back to his childhood home in Sardinia. Uras represents what restaurant wait service in Rome is all about. Respect. Professionalism. Efficiency. Kindness. Patience.

This is what restaurant wait service in the U.S. is all about: tips, overbearingness, tips, questions, impatience and more tips.
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Jubilee year off to slow start in Rome, allegedly near top of Isis’ hit list

I wanted to see how Rome handled security. Ever since the Paris attacks, I’d seen camouflaged soldiers carrying machine guns in subway stations. Police cars clogged busy street corners. Every government building had extra security.
So I took a bus across the Tiber River to Prati, my old neighborhood near the Vatican. I walked down Via Porta Angelica, one of the main tourist thoroughfares into St. Peter’s Square. An army truck with armed soldiers manned one corner. Dozens of men and women wearing green neon and navy coats with “Protezione Civile Volontariato” stood on the street. A Red Cross truck and a bevy of medics in red and white outfits stood outside the Vatican wall, as if ready to move at the first sound of a bomb or the first view of a flying body part.
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Baker’s Tomb one of Rome’s many ancient historical secrets

His name was Marcus Vergilius Eurysaces. He was a Greek slave who, when freed, could continue his profession as a baker but could not earn Roman citizenship until …

… he baked 100 bushels of bread a day — single handedly. Furthermore, he had to sell the bread to the state, at a larcenously low price, for at least three years. Yes, in many ways, Ancient Romans were complete unadulterated swine.
Eurysaces kneaded and baked, baked and kneaded. Soon, he found himself with Roman citizenship and a thriving bakery. Bread was a valuable foodstuff in Ancient Rome and by 30 B.C., Eurysaces had become one of the top bakers in town. He became rich. So, matching some of the egos in the Roman Senate, he purchased a plot of land near one of the main gates of Rome. Why?

So he could build himself his own tomb.
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Tombs of Via Latina a once beaten path now lined with the dead of Ancient Rome

I walked down a 5,000-year-old street Sunday. Some roads in Rome look that old, but Via Latina really is 5,000 years old. Roman armies once marched down Via Latina toward Southern Italy. How old is Via Latina? You know Via Appia Antica, the famed street where Spartacus’ ill-fated slave revolt ended with his slaves hanging from crosses along the side of the road? Via Latina is older.
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As world continues to crumble, tiny Sermoneta serves as a quiet respite

Saturday I went to Sermoneta. Sermoneta is a medieval village atop a cliff more than 1,000 feet above an agricultural area, one of Benito Mussolini’s more successful projects from the 1930s. About 55 miles south of Rome and reachable by bus from the EUR Fermi Metro stop, Sermoneta has about 600 people, none of whom apparently has a car. I didn’t dodge any along the one narrow, cobblestone road. The rest of the village consists of windy, twisting alleys lined with pots blooming with red, yellow, purple and orange flowers. Even on an overcast day, the town burst with colors.
The village is as quiet as an outdoor abbey.
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Rome’s SuperCat Show shows a city’s love for their furry citizens

On Halloween night, the city of Rome put on its 16th annual SuperCat Show for all its cat aficionados. I could tell the popularity of cats here just by the venue. It was held at Nuova Fiera di Roma near Fiumicino, the coastal town that has Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci Airport. Looking at the size of Fiera di Roma’s exhibition hall, I’m assuming when it doesn’t host cat shows it doubles as an airplane hangar. It was 50 meters long and nearly 108,000 square feet. In it were 800 cats, of which which were expected to be perused, petted and photographed over two days by about 30,000 people.
If you heard a giant “AHHHHHH!” coming from the direction of Italy about 10 days ago, that was us.
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Scambios are ideal way to learn Italian — but careful how you say it

I was having a scambio. It is great way to learn a language. It’s educational, fun and free. Scambio is Italian for “exchange.” I meet an Italian who wants to learn English. We talk Italian for an hour and then English for an hour and correct each other along the way. However, one of my first language lessons in Rome was how to ask for said language lesson. Technically, scambio in Italian vernacular usually refers to a sexual swap. I tried calling it a scambio di lingua but while lingua means “language,” it also means “tongue.” That became problematic — and a bit dangerous — when asking Italian women. While I still had my front teeth, I was told the accurate term is scambio linguistica.
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Friends With No Benefits Tour to Umbria goes to the heart of rural and religious Italy

No region in Italy is less influenced by outside sources. This is what I love about Umbria. In a country that gets nearly 50 million tourists a year, Umbria may be the most authentic region of them all. Walled hill towns void of tourist buses. Remnants of the most beloved saint in Italian history. Ancient local delicacies ranging from piccione (pigeon) to cinghiale, the wild boar that has so overrun Umbria one might check you into your hotel room.

I recently made my second annual fall trip to Umbria, thanks to my partner in crime, sportswriter Alessandro Castellani, whose good friend, Umbrian innkeeper Leonardo De Mai, seemingly knows everyone in the region. Seven of us piled into cars and trains and headed north from Rome about two hours.
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L’avanzamento della squadra Nazionale Italiana di calcio in una nazione con guerre regionali

La squadra Nazionale Italiana ha sempre risvegliato un grande interesse in Italia. Gli Italiani la seguono ma l’Italia è diversa da qualsiasi altro Paese del mondo. Nonostante abbia radici che risalgano a circa 3.000 anni fa e, indipendentemente dall’impronta indelebile che l’Impero Romano abbia lasciato nel mondo, l’Italia solo nel 1861 è diventata una Repubblica. Circa 100 anni più tardi degli Stati Uniti d’America.
(Leggere piu, scatta qui.)

Italy’s national soccer team advances in a nation of regional wars

It’s the 21st century, and Italy remains as regionalized as any country in the world. All 20 regions have their own dialect, their own history, their own cuisine. They also have their own soccer club. If a country rallies around its national soccer team, Italy’s regions rally around its soccer club. It takes precedence. Always. I listen to Rete Sport on 105.6 FM. It’s a radio station that is devoted all day to A.S. Roma. That’s it. No other team. No other sport. For 23 years I lived in Denver where domestic violence rises on days when the Denver Broncos NFL team doesn’t win. They don’t have media coverage like this.
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