July 29, 2014

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Some Clarifications in Italy...

Restating some of the obvious, and sharing stream of thought things learned and repeated while on the road in Italy with Kirk...

 

Some clarifications….
"Prego” appears to have several different uses. “You’re welcome” as well as “Please…(think nothing of it)”
“Gratzi” is the corrected spelling of “Thank you”. Many locals understand “Thank You” in English.
If you try to speak in Italian, the waiters and clerks appreciate it, but will answer you in English, if they can.
Gelato is the Italian version of Ice Cream…and I’ve been told that even the fruity flavors contain milk and egg and sugar. It’s not frozen as hard as our US version of ice Cream, but is strongly chilled. Very Tasty!
You may not take photos in the Sistine Chapel. You may not talk in the Sistine Chapel. It is a Holy Place. And there is some concern from the heat of flash photography that the paint pigment might melt. Earlier, I had heard that it was the intensity of the light, which breaks down pigment and dyes in tapestries.
The Sistine Chapel has a self-portrait of Michelangelo, in the form of a “skinned human”. He also got his revenge upon the local policeman/authority, by painting him with donkey ears, a serpent wrapping around him and biting his manhood. So much for crossing the artist, eh?
Michelangelo designed the original design layout of St. Peter’s Church as a Greek cross, but as it took more than 120 years to complete, 18 other plans and 24 Popes changed the concept, including a major change which lengthened one leg of the cross to a Latin cross. Michelangelo wanted the dome to always be the focus, which is no longer the case with the longer length.
The pope is elected by the College of Cardinals in “conclave”… “under lock of key” and is not released until a decision has been made. As ballots are burned, black smoke released means “not yet”, and white smoke signals a new pope has been selected. The smoke escapes in a small wood chimney that is installed for this purpose then removed.
The Coliseum of Rome is the largest surviving arena, and was built on the site of a former lake belonging to the emperor of Rome. Contrary to popular belief, Christians were not fed to lions there. However, it did happen at a nearby location.  Sea battles were not staged here, though a small exhibition might have been at one time.  GLADIATORS were the draw. I'm told Spartacus and "Gladiator" were the most accurate of Hollywood movies.
One of the important battles of World War II in Italy was at “Big Casino”… a US GI’s version of “Casino Maxima”… a bit south of Rome.   Another site of a bloody invasion was Anzio, also a bit to the south.
We are NOT going to see the leaning tower of Pisa, though it is in northern Italy, it is off our path a bit.
There seems to be some hierarchy of wealth, moving from Northern Italy to Southern Italy. Several references have been made to the volcanoes in the south and to the poverty in the south, and more poor land to the south. This may account from so many immigrants from Sicily. But I’ll have to check.
Our favorite region that we have traveled through is Tuscany, hands down. The landscape, the plant life, and the walled city of San Gingegnsti are all unmatched. Venice is nice, but Tuscany rules! There is a movement afoot by the region that contains Venice, to withdraw from the Italian union, and a local sentiment is that they may succeed! We shall see.
The Vatican is a separate country of 109 acres, ruled by the Pope. He appears in the window overlooking St. Peter’s square every Sunday at noon, in the second window from the right, top floor of the adjacent building, where his apartment is located.
Tipping is not necessary in Italy, as every meal has a 15% service charge built into the bill. It is expected that you will not tip in addition to that unless the service has been remarkable or personalized. There are two types of bottled water served at all meals…natural and fizzy (with CO2 added). Most in our party agree we think fizzy reminds us of Alka Seltzer, and we don’t prefer it.  Some of us prefer red wine, and it is amply available.
Most Italians drink wine with their meal. White and Red wines are offered at every meal. Pepsi products are rare, but Coca-Cola products is always available as well as other local products.
Street vendors at newsstands have lots of magazines and newspapers…but comic books appear limited to a few trade paperback collections that are several years old.  
The most common superhero toys seen thus far? Spider-Man. 
The most common such T-Shirt? Superman’s "S".  (though I have seen people wearing the Batman logo and Green Lantern logos in the crowds.)
Also run…."X-men: First Class" was the movie on the flight over the Atlantic…. This traveled over Newfoundland Iceland and the North Sea and the Alps, before settling in Milan, in NW Italy.
The flight over took 8 hours from Atlanta to Milan. The flight back from Rome to Atlanta will take 9 or 10… depending on the jet stream. Sigh. (My worst part of traveling is the long flights when I’m expected to sleep. It never works for me, and I usually am jet-lagged, as I try to adjust.
But Italy is worth it. I’d definitely come again, especially to Tuscany and those walled cities!  The terraces and graceful cedar trees (or are the poplar?) are distinctive and captured on water-color paintings that are commonly available there.
Next time, I'll have to plan a Tuscany/Pisa start and journey south to Pompeii, Naples and Vesuvius!
 
 
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