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[personal profile] ashnistrike
Tell me awesome, worrisome, trivial, or terrifying details about modern Rome?

Date: 2013-11-15 04:08 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
There's an ordinance that forbids people from eating gelato on the Spanish Steps. (It's not really enforceable, of course.)

The Victor Emmanuel II monument is generally known as "the typewriter."

Date: 2013-11-15 06:20 am (UTC)
ext_63737: Posing at Zeusaphone concert, 2008 (Bill Heterodyne animated)
From: [identity profile] beamjockey.livejournal.com
I just spent a week in and near Rome. But I'm afraid I was a tourist, paying little attention to modern Rome. A snapshot of me at the Forum, or [livejournal.com profile] brotherguy at the Colosseum, won't be much help to you.

Two-wheeled vehicles are much, much more popular in Italy than in the States.

Our host encouraged a viewing of Roman Holiday, starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck, the better to compare 1952 Tourist Rome to 2013 Tourist Rome.

Perhaps a crawl around Google Earth, especially Street View, would supplement details your correspondents offer.

Might hunt for Roman webcams as well, if you have zero travel budget.

Also, "Ex Urbe's" "The Shape of Rome" is well worth reading, though I wouldn't be surprised if you were already aware of her.
Edited Date: 2013-11-15 06:20 am (UTC)

Date: 2013-11-16 02:38 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ashnistrike.livejournal.com
Definitely yes to the streetview and webcams. I have read the Ex Urbe post; if I could have only gotten the characters to Florence, I'd have no worries at all.

Date: 2013-11-15 06:46 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rushthatspeaks.livejournal.com
The best pizza place in Rome, Cafe Florida, is across from the cat sanctuary at Largo di Torre Argentina, so you eat the pizza sitting on the curb surrounded by cats who would like some. They are friendly and pettable. The sanctuary is the excavated ruins of a not terribly important something-or-other, so the curb is a barrier against a large drop, and you peer down counting the cats as they sprawl on arches and brickwork below you. The cats are citizens of the City of Rome and so may not be adopted outside its borders, and that means the square mile or so of the City, not the outskirts or even the Vatican.

There are at least two churches per block, and of course not all of them are open all the time, and so you pass a lot of priests on the street as they make rounds between the various churches in their charge to do different time-of-day services at different places. The last time I was at Largo Argentina (with A.), a scrawny black cat with a perfectly rectangular splotch of white under his chin hurried past us from a side street and down the steps into the no-humans-allowed areas. He was obviously the local priest returning to his base church from Mass elsewhere, could have been nothing else.

Largo Argentina is not quite the geographical center of Rome As She Matters To Us Tourists, but close enough, because the existence of the Vatican quarter across the river to the west has pulled the string of most traveled areas away from the Forum, and the counterpull of the train station away to the east near the Colosseum does not balance it. The section of road between about Largo Argentina and Trajan's column is the part one walks through over and over and over again, although I usually loop north to walk by the Pantheon when I can because there's less traffic.

If you need a public restroom near the Forum and you try inside the Vittorio Emanuele wedding-cake monument, they won't charge admission and you'll see a lot of terrifying Art Deco-style Fascist mural work but you'll have to climb so many flights to get the the bathroom that you will actually be on the level of the outside viewing platform and the doors of Santa Maria Ara Coeli, the church commonly known to my household as Santa Maria Up All Those Damn Stairs. I had been meaning to go to that church for years and letting the stairs put me off, and the view of the Forum is spectacular, so it was worthwhile, but what I had actually wanted was the bathroom, and there must be easier ways.

The thing is I can go on like this indefinitely. Do you have specific questions? It will be much easier if you have specific questions.

Date: 2013-11-16 02:51 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ashnistrike.livejournal.com
I knew you'd have some good stuff--gratias agimus tibi! And since you ask, what I most need are telling details about the trains (and other public transport, but chiefly trains), and one or two museums or schools where one might find someone quietly working on thaumaturgical research related to roads.

Date: 2013-11-16 04:54 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rushthatspeaks.livejournal.com
There are two kinds of train in Rome. There's the trains which go to other cities in Italy and to the rest of Europe, and those come into Termini, which is the Giant Train Station And Shopping Mall in the eastern part of the city. Termini is surrounded by hotels and cheap food and clothing places; some of the hotels are good, and since it is Italy you can get good train station food to take on the train with you or if you get in at ridiculous o'clock. Termini is also a bus depot. It is also one of the sketchiest parts of the city, in terms of pickpocketing, begging, sexual harassment, street peddlers, and so on. The Evil Bus Jo is talking about runs from there. Train tickets to other cities/countries are relatively cheap. Trains are comfortable and have power outlets and sleeping cars and all those good things. BUT all the tracks are marked in ways which may not make that much sense, and intervals between trains may make for weirdly long or short layovers.

The other kind of train is the Metro. Both subways and buses have a ticket system, where you buy a ticket and you put it in a machine and it deducts your fare, but the Metro is somewhat easier to use than the buses, because it generally has visible ticket machines which sell tickets in multiple languages. You buy bus tickets in convenience stores and tobacconists' and there are no signs about that anywhere. With both things, it is common enough for tourists to fail to understand what is going on that I have seen people intentionally get free bus rides by looking confused and repeating the word 'what' in a foreign language until the driver waves them in. In the Metro, transit police do random stops to see whether passengers have paid their fares correctly; non-Italians will generally not be fined if they have a ticket but couldn't figure out what they were supposed to do with it, because sometimes it's not obvious. Anyone will be fined for not having a ticket at all.

Every inch of Metro track can and should be viewed as a grudging compromise with the past for the needs of the present. Expanding the system is almost impossible. Building new tunnels takes years because every time the tunnel advances another five feet it hits a new and priceless archaeological discovery. I am not exaggerating. Generally what happens is that they call in archaeologists, who do site evaluations quickly in situ, and then there is a fight about whether whatever it is is significant enough to call the tunnel off, or whether the City will give the archaeologists a set amount of time to do what they can before proceeding with construction. If the tunnel will proceed, there is a fight about how long the archaeologists get, but five years is standard. So the five years go by, the City advances the tunnel through the site, they dig another five feet... and it happens again with something completely different and from a different period. This is why the Metro system is so limited and does not go near many of the most interesting things, and that is never going to change.

These issues do not come up so much with constructing things that aren't trains because they just simply don't dig. And mostly they don't need to. If you are building a house, you don't need to excavate a basement, you need to break into the catacombs that are already down there, and then you use those. A restaurant I frequent, Cul de Sac, has a tiny little narrow space upstairs but a MUCH larger wine cellar which was pre-Christian and not really a wine cellar, and they don't pay rent for that bit.

I did an undergraduate thesis on the development of the road system around the Vatican under the early Humanist Popes of the Renaissance, so if you want to know more about that than any human being needs I am at your disposal. Museum-wise, the most likely place is the Museum of the City of Rome, Museo della Civilta Romana, which is heavily focused on daily life and the evolution of the city over time. School-wise, if your character is American you want the American Academy in Rome, no question, getting a fellowship there is one of the Holy Grails for classical and architecture students. Many European nations have similar academies in Rome. I don't know anything about the relevant Italian institutions.

Date: 2013-11-16 01:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ashnistrike.livejournal.com
Ooh.

Any chance of a Skype or Google Video session tomorrow? We could chat about roads and also catch up in general. And I can tell you about what I'm doing today, which if all goes well will be an experimental tour of DC's past, present, and future with an emphasis on infrastructure and nanotechnology.

Date: 2013-11-17 02:30 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rushthatspeaks.livejournal.com
Tomorrow is not the best day for that on my end, I'm afraid. Email with some proposed other times, as I am probably much less booked up than you are on account of not having a nine-to-five job, and we can make this work?

Date: 2013-11-15 01:23 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] xiphias.livejournal.com
There actually ARE gypsy beggars -- as in, families of Romany who hang around tourist areas and look pitiful to try to get your money. (As you'd imagine, the REST of the Romany community is really, really embarrassed by them) The thing is, they're just not as GOOD as beggars in the United States. They just sort of sit there, trying to look pathetic, and maybe waving their canes at you or something. In the United States, beggars have signs explaining how they're homeless veterans down on their luck, or that they need money for ninja lessons, or "so what if I blow it on booze and drugs -- that's what YOU were going to do with it, weren't you?" American beggars are just more skilled at begging.

The ancient world is EVERYWHERE. Like, you've got collapsed ancient columns lying on the ground in parks, which are your park benches. And, well, you're just walking down the street, and BAM! The Colosseum is in front of you.

Rome prides itself on its fountains. And by "fountains", I mean both "decorative fountains like the Trevi which are artistic marvels for the ages" and "drinking fountains." They've got these candy-cane shaped pipes, which have water coming out of the end, and a hole drilled at the apex. Block the end of the pipe, and the water squirts out the top, so you can just use it as a water bubbler. And their municipal tap water is DELICIOUS. You can also just fill up your water bottle or a bucket or whatever from the end.

Romans dress AMAZINGLY. You'll occasionally see a poorly-dressed Roman man, but it's rare. And you'll NEVER see a Roman woman who's less than picture-perfect.

Crossing the street in Rome is nowhere near as terrifying as people say it is. Romans want to get from Point A to Point B as quickly as possible, while avoiding any obstacles in their way. All you have to do is make your trajectory clear, and people will drive around you. They don't want to hit you any more than you want to be hit.

Date: 2013-11-16 02:52 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ashnistrike.livejournal.com
Those are really useful details--thanks!

Date: 2013-11-15 01:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] xiphias.livejournal.com
Oh -- what Rushthatspeaks says about cats? Italy is the best place in the entire world for cats. Imagine what you'd want in life if you were a cat. How about "nice sunbeams", "people for giving you scritches", "not very many significant predators that eat cats" (there are SOME, but not as many as, say, coyotes in around here in the United States), "access to delicious people food", "a good population of birds and rodents for hunting" ...

As far as I can tell, Italians and cats pretty much value the same things in life, which is why they get along so famously.

Date: 2013-11-16 02:52 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ashnistrike.livejournal.com
Yes, I think I'm adding some cats to this scene.

Date: 2013-11-15 03:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] papersky.livejournal.com
Rome was invaded by Visigoths and Huns, and most recently by hordes of Vespas.

The traffic is terrifyingly crazy bad, all the time, everywhere. Riding in a taxi from the Villa Borghese I felt a need to say I didn't want to be buried in the Protestant cemetery with Keats.

It's all layered, but you know about that. But walking along you randomly find things from all its history all jumbled up like geological strata, more than anywhere else I have been.

The place is full of fountains, and they are all drinkable water and people drink from them and fill their water bottles, all the time. This is something modern Rome and ancient Rome have in common, public good water, and which isn't like anywhere else. And you can fill your water bottle from an ancient Roman fountain or a Renaissance one and it will be great water. The very best water is just where you get off the Evil Bus, near St Peter's. If you take the Evil Bus people will try to steal your things and also sexually harass you. It's better for your characters not to take it. There's a perfectly good metro, much like New York's.

Date: 2013-11-16 02:53 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ashnistrike.livejournal.com
Thank you! Are all the buses evil, or just one specific route?

Date: 2013-11-16 01:37 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] papersky.livejournal.com
Just that one.

But that one is like that every time.

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