Monday, August 7, 2017

TC and JC’s Invasion of Italy

First, to set the record straight I had a chaperone; Julieann Marie Campbell.  This is good because the outcome could have otherwise been worse.  Much, much worse.  Let’s get right to the record though.  

Top Ten Things I Learned in Italy
  1. Scooter’s rule the inner cities. They bob and weave through traffic like little Muhammad Ali’s of the motorbike world. Almost half are fearless women. All wear helmets and keep their pipes muffled (Italian laws). In smaller towns, where the new (less than 600 year old) roads are smoother, bicycles rule.
  2. Gelato is a health food. This is a lucky thing because I was forced to consume several (don’t ask who made me… it was an inner calling).
  3. “House Red” is a high end wine order…and it’s ten times better than a US “house red”. Unless you order the watered down version at a self service restaurant – there the house red is actually a watered down faint pink that is the most tasteless drink ever invented by man. 
  4. Italian sculptors knew anatomy and proportion much better than “Bo knows football”. Michaelangelo was definitely the best. He began studying when he was barely a teen and completed the Piata before he was 24! He completed the David (yes, of David and Goliath fame) before he was 30! In contrast, I completed college before I was 30… duh.  
  5. Italian artists, especially those from 500 or so years ago were absolute masters of light and shadow. It was they who invented 3-D and you don’t even need glasses to see it. If you doubt this, just check out some of the frescoes in the ceilings of their cathedrals.
  6. Ninety percent of the tiles laid in the world reside inside Italian churches.  
  7. A “million dollar view” in Italy costs just that. More or less. Most likely more.  It’s not just the Euro either… it’s good old real estate speculation as well.
  8. Twelve dollars (8 euros) for a Bitburger tall draft beer is a good deal… at least in comparison to a small Bud light purchased in the Sacramento Kings basketball arena.
  9. The expression “beautiful people” originated from external observations of Italian women and men, especially Italian women. At least until the age of forty when the high carbohydrate diet effect tends to kick in.
  10. The expression, “Holy S___!!!” was first heard when an American visitor entered Saint Peter’s Basilica over 200 years ago. It is not in fact, “overwhelming” as many people claim. It is rather, much more than that and words don’t cover “much more”. 
  11. What…You think I would stop at ten?  C’mon!
  12. Piazzas rank among the top rubbernecking spots in the world. These are large squares typically ringed by multistory apartment buildings, street level cafes and vendors…people and pigeons (yes, both types) wandering all over.  The best we were in was the Piazza del Campo in Sienna where a great silent comic worked the passing crowd in front of us as we sipped the world’s best cappuccinos’ at an outdoor café. There is a brief YouTube video on him that is pretty good but it does not capture his facial expressions and they are priceless…    
  13. When I go to heaven (yeah right), I want to grab a few bottles of “House Red” and sit down to shoot the bull with Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Berlinni and Raphael.  
  14. I also want to meet some of the day laborers who set millions of nail-head size marble chips in the floor and wall mosaics of Italy’s churches. As Jack Sender and I were speculating, some of those guys must have spent their entire lives working on them for what… maybe a meal or two a day? They must have had calluses on their knees the thickness of a baseball mitt. Many of these are in intricate mosaics that must have taken generations to complete. Picture this:  “Tom, we will give you a meal a day and a rock to sleep on if you will simply inlay tiny fingernail size pieces of marble in our mosaics from now until you die”. Sounds like an offer I wouldn’t be able to refuse!
  15. Ninety-three point four percent of the world’s bricks are imbedded in the floors, ceilings and walls of Italian buildings. Just like fingerprints, no two are absolutely alike.
  16. Contrary to popular opinion, 90% of Italian men have taken to wearing jeans… the other 10% wear custom made suits that cost 1,000 euros ($3,000,000 US).
  17. If you have a pair of Docker slacks cleaned twice in Italy, you will have equaled the U.S. cost of a replacement pair.
  18. In Rome, the recommended “safe distance” to maintain from the car or scooter in front of you is 1.5 inches. If you open this gap any further a darting scooter will immediately fill it.
  19. The Hertz “Never Lost” device contains a nice little lady who will always softly correct your dumb mistakes and make sure you don’t die of frustration before your time. This especially true in Italy, where streets follow no pattern and a name can change 5 times within 5 fairly straight blocks. 
  20. You cannot master a small, passing Italian vocabulary without also learning the “masculine and feminine” form. I have been trying to learn the feminine form (youknowwhatimeanVern) all my life and have been unsuccessful so I will never know Italian.
  21. Sometimes they charge you for the little appetizers or bread they serve with your drink order and sometimes they don’t. You get to guess.
  22. Euros are composed of tiny little hungry nano devices that gobble up American currency at roughly a rate of two to one. Yes, even though the pitiful exchange rate is currently 1.65 US to 1Euro you will still end up paying two to three times as much for an item. (See #8, the $12 Bitberger beer)
  23. Millions of footsteps occurring over hundreds of years will eventually wear a path in marble. If you visit, you will get to help.
  24. Little bitty autos named “Smart” are taking over the streets of Italy. They are so short you can often find them parked perpendicular to the sidewalk in a parallel parking area… honest! They also sell them right here in the US so get ready!
  25. The difference between an ancient painting that has been cleaned and one that has not is remarkable. It makes you go from thinking the artists made poor choices in color to being convinced they were perfect.
  26. Famous last words… “We just got in line because we wanted to see what all the other people were lined up for.” The sign said, “Entrance to the Duomo”. We had already been in the Florence cathedral but this sign was on the side and I thought it was just another floor view. Wrong. While in line, Julieann said, “Tom, I think I heard someone say this is the line for the climb to the top.” I thought that might be interesting…414 steps later we were there. Along the way we worked through one-way shoulder width, dark, stone corridors that included gradual winding ways, compressed corkscrew turns and low ceiling, slanted walkways with iron side rails you had to use to work your way through. We emerged twice at interior levels and could see the cupola all the way to the tiny people on the floor near the altars. At the top there was a short climb where you had to wait for those going down to clear the stairs before you could go up. They then proceeded down through a completely separate corridor. Also at the top, there was probably room for forty or fifty people. After a couple of high-fives congratulating ourselves for making the climb alive, Julie and I had a beautiful, three hundred and sixty degree view of the city and countryside. It is a great, double-walled dome.
  27. 150kmh is roughly 88mph. I like the way Italians drive on the Autostradas (toll roads). They generally move to the inside lane if they aren’t passing someone and they drop the hammer when they are in the hammer lane. Hertz had kindly upgraded us to a BMW for our trip so I spent a fair amount of time at 150kmh. Even at that, I was often passed by folks going much faster.
  28. Tour groups in the very narrow streets of Italy are much like a tsunami… you must immediately take shelter and wait until they pass, otherwise you may get swept up and follow an unopened orange umbrella raised high in the air. 
  29. Walk.  
  30. Walk.
  31. Walk.
  32. Ok that’s it.  I am going to quit here because you are probably getting tuckered.  I know I am. 


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