An Operatic Finish To Italy

Today’s beautiful weather was ideal for my day on foot visiting the Colesseum, Roman Forum, the Palantine Hill, and the Pantheon. And what great sites (and sights) they are! Some of you know that I’m an avid reader of Roman history, real and fictionalized (and I know some of you are, too), so it was fascinating today to see some of the places from my readings. For instance, I stood at the spot where it’s said that Julius Caesar was cremated after being assassinated.
 
It’s amazing that such ruins remain at all, though I thought the Forum seemed way too small to have been the civic seat of a culture that ruled 54 million people at one time. The ancient Romans excelled in so many ways, lasted for 1000 years, and commanded a huge empire. They were the greatest economic and military power on the planet yet their leaders’ arrogance and corruption led ultimately to their decline and eventual ruin. I often wonder if the U.S. is not on the same track today…
 
Some Odds ‘n’ Ends: Modern Romans are definitely fans of stylish eyewear and devote many, many high-end stores to them. The rectangular lens shape is very much in vogue here and I’ve gotten quite a few weird looks while out and about, which I ascribe to my utterly retro, "so Out they’re In" Wayfarer sunglasses. Or could it be my L.L. Bean Safari outfit?
 
Sadly, I had no luck finding the fabulous Sfogiatelle pastry that my friend Salam so highly recommended (he did say it might be more popular further south, closer to Naples) and I did not get to eat carciofo romana, a dish which involves flattening and grilling parts of a whole artichoke.
 
However, the best Gelato I found in all my Italian travels was not at one of the recommended gelaterias (most of which I tried) but instead at a family-run, hole-in-the-wall down the street from my current hotel. Go figure.
 
Tonight I wrap up my Italian stay with a performance of Il Turco In Italy by Rossini at the National Opera House (conveniently right across the street from my hotel). This is an Opera Buffo (comic opera) but the plot is so convoluted that, when I read the synopsis, I gave up on keeping track of who was cheating on, in love with, pining for, disguised as, or fleeing from, who. I’m sure the music and singing will be great. (Post-performance comments: it was a great show, with very clever scenery and directed by someone with a great eye for small comic bits that delighted throughout the performance. Terrific music and singing, as was expected. The opera house itself was not quite as fabulous as La Fenice in Venice but wonderful nonetheless).
 
Speaking of music, my hotel only occupies some of the floors in its building and on the floor above me someone in an apartment plays excellent classical piano every night, which lulls me to sleep.
 
Tomorrow: I bid Italy goodbye and head off to Paris for a few days.
 
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