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A Postcard from Rome

By A Bore in Culture
Sun Sep 10, 2006 at 12:00:00 PM EST
Tags: travel, shittiness (all tags)

For the worst pizza in Rome, you have to start from the Piazza San Pietro. Face the Basilica, and take the exit from the piazza to your right, fighting your way through crowds of alabastor Americans, as if you were going around to the entrance to the Vatican Museums. At the traffic lights, turn right. The second pizzeria on the right is the one you are looking for. It's called The Swiss Guard, after the clowns who guard His Holiness.

Observe the local customs of creating pizza. Firstly, the base must be thin and dry, and slightly burnt on the bottom. In contrast, the upper surface of the base must be uncooked and as slushy as freshly defouled snow. The tomato sauce must be painfully sweet, denoting its transubstantiation from a powder. The mozzarella must be melted, yet carefully unbrowned - this would add flavour. The prosciutto must have the unhealthy pinkness of a freshly picked scab. No herbs, no pepper, and certainly no salt are added; this would completely ruin the desired sensation of eating medium density fiberboard. Considering that I travelled to Rome primarily because of its reputation for culinary excellence, I must say I was slightly disappointed. The holiday got worse from that point.

I've never been a big fan of Catholics anyway. Being educated around nuns, however briefly, tends to do that to the free thinker. Specifically, being told that, as God is everywhere, shaking issue from my loins anywhere was basically masturbating onto his face, at such a young and impressionable age, has gifted me my fair share of prejudices.

So I was unmoved by Basilica de San Pietro. I cocked a wry smile at the guide's description of the cultural strip-mining of the glories of ancient Rome that took place to create the cool marbled halls and overwrought statues of the church itself. I shook my head at Berini's altar, made tall from so much bronze (ripped off the Flavi amphitheatre), yet whose immense scale is utterly unappreciated under the giant dome. What a bloody waste.

In fact, the most entertaining aspect of that early expedition was the sighting of the previously alluded to Swiss clowns. They wear a Renaissance outfit, supposedly designed by Michaelangelo himself, though from the looks of it, Pedro "Fuckwit" Michaelangelo of Anoscopáre, Abruzzo. The thing about the Swiss guards is the ridiculous conditions the Pope insists on before taking them on. They can't be married, or have wives, or drink, or eat chocolate, or go sightseeing; they must have served 2 years in the Swiss Army; they must enjoy dressing up like clowns; like hats; - in short, they must be non-hetero. The Pope is guarded by an elite cadré of gay clowns.

I did, of course, wander the halls of the Vatican museum, the miles and miles of one way system you have to traverse, dotted with signs saying exactly the same thing "Capella Sistina - Just around the corner now, seriously." I oohed and aahed amongst the mass of sweaty, genuflecting atheists just like everyone else, and wondered why he couldn't have painted the walls instead to prevent me getting a crick in my neck, just like everyone else. The Sistine chapel is a holy place, so the Italians have stationed a policeman in it to make sure the tourists make no noise, which he accomplished by regularly yelling "no peeeeectures" at the illiterate sign-ignorers and pantomining a "shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh" gesture. All day.

Raphael's rooms were OK, I suppose. I thought The School of Athens was a bit unlikely - I couldn't see a single fist fight. It was totally dumbed down. All the philosphers held their great works of literature so they could be readily identified. Fuck sake, why not give each a name tag? HI MY NAME IS socrates. I couldn't work out if he had to paint it that way because he was just making up their appearance, or because his audience wouldn't have got it. Who's the fat guy in the toga? Is it Diogenes?

But nitpicking great artists is the height of philistinism. So I probably shouldn't ask why Jesus wasn't black, or why Mary in Michaelangelo's Pietá looked like No-Face from Spirited Away.

I did, eventually, find better food elsewhere in the city but Romans seem to have an infuriating attitude towards their cuisine. Basically, the flavours are subtle but the freshness of the ingredients should, they seem to believe, impart all the flavour required. Shockingly, to me, there were hardly any fresh herbs used to complement the dish. The traditional Roman meal is a chunk of mozzarella with a slice of tomato on top, served on a dirty plate in a dirty street swimming with moped fumes.

It must be a racket. The Italians themselves can't possibly taste anything - they consider a good meal unruined unless they chain smoke their way through a dozen cigarettes between courses. And the courses themselves! They are about 7 courses to a full italian meal - one begins with brushetta or a selection of cheeses, then munches ones way through an antipasto of some pate or soup, then considers il primo - some lasagne, perhaps? - then the fish course; a hearty fillet of Sea Bass with plenty of potatoes and vegetables; then il secondo - the meaty, substantial dish; perhaps a Carpaccio of beef; of course then, a well dressed salad, and finally a dessert. Then you leave the restaurant and walk up the road for the evening gelato, the best part of any Rome experience. Try Tre Scalini on Piazza Navona. If you don't like the cinnamon gelato, you're such a fucking fag you should drown yourself in a cascade of choleraic diarrhoea.

This ridiculous diet is why Italians, when their early twenties metabolic switch takes place, become fleshy zeppelins overnight, legs dangling uselessly like broken guy ropes from their immensely inflated roundness.

Anyway, here are my thoughts of the remainder of Rome. Colosseum; nice, but too many tourists. Fontana de Trevi; nice, but too many tourists and rose sellers. Piazza Navona; nice but... you get the picture. Spanish Steps; deeply dull waste of time. Some steps leading up to a church. Someone bolt my pants shut - there's going to be an explosion.

Overall, Rome has become more of an international outpost of the Tourist empire Touristania, rather than an Italian city in its own right. I didn't speak more than two words of Italian in my entire week long trip. I didn't actually see any Italians on the street, only acting as waiters in restaurants or concierges or maids in hotels. Or driving mopeds erratically across pedestrian crossings.

It's always the small differences that make a holiday - the mundane changes in domestic order that shake us up or make us think. The predominant one in Rome for me wasn't eating cakes for breakfast, or the afternoon siesta out of the heat - it was the green lighted pedestrian crossings over which one fought cars and mopeds, gladiator like, for the control of the road. Scuttling across in my final daily game of chicken on Friday, it struck me (a thought, not a tin moped) that this was the closest I had probably come to real Italians. They must have crept in at night while I slept, ready the next day to pile into their little cars and whizzing on their toy scooters back away from the city. After one week, I gladly followed them.


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A Postcard from Rome | 36 comments (29 topical, 7 editorial, 0 hidden)
I liked it quite a bit (none / 0) (#3)
by debacle on Sun Sep 10, 2006 at 08:19:27 PM EST

And I'll know never to go to Rome.

Can't speak a lick of Latin, anyway.

It tastes sweet.

+1, Biting invective (none / 0) (#7)
by HackerCracker on Mon Sep 11, 2006 at 04:17:35 AM EST

You had me at the description of bad pizza. And here I thought the worst was to be found in St. Louis.

by noogee on Mon Sep 11, 2006 at 04:57:41 AM EST

still here

+1 FP (3.00 / 3) (#9)
by tetsuwan on Mon Sep 11, 2006 at 06:04:41 AM EST

How A Bore totally fails it as a tourist. He goes to all the tourist traps and then complains that they are tourist traps. My trip to Italy, on the other hand, was fantastic. Rome ranked quite low on that list. Pompeji and Sienna was much better. Renting a car is a good choice too.

Njal's Saga: Just like Romeo & Juliet without the romance

Wow, they have a Vatican in pompeji and sienna? (3.00 / 4) (#13)
by A Bore on Mon Sep 11, 2006 at 09:19:26 AM EST

[ Parent ]
No (none / 0) (#14)
by tetsuwan on Mon Sep 11, 2006 at 09:45:10 AM EST

Not in Venedig or Pisa either.

Why did you spend so much time in the Vatican when you didn't like it and hate catholics?

Njal's Saga: Just like Romeo & Juliet without the romance
[ Parent ]

That town is not called Venedig in English. % (none / 0) (#24)
by Joe Sixpack on Tue Sep 12, 2006 at 02:23:12 PM EST

[ Parent ]

Haha (none / 0) (#25)
by tetsuwan on Tue Sep 12, 2006 at 06:00:19 PM EST

Slip. Venice.

Njal's Saga: Just like Romeo & Juliet without the romance
[ Parent ]

but it is in german (none / 0) (#29)
by trasel on Wed Sep 13, 2006 at 05:52:41 PM EST

Every Latino is born knowing two things: how to lower a Chevy and that the Gringos are always to blame. -- Gary Brecher
[ Parent ]
Ich weiß. % (none / 0) (#31)
by Joe Sixpack on Thu Sep 14, 2006 at 02:56:32 PM EST

[ Parent ]

There used to be Vaticans in those places... (3.00 / 3) (#17)
by Russell Dovey on Mon Sep 11, 2006 at 01:19:21 PM EST

...but, as I'm sure you know, the Rebels destroyed the first two.

"Blessed are the cracked, for they let in the light." - Spike Milligan
[ Parent ]

I'm your #1 fan! $ (1.20 / 5) (#10)
by seamstressNo11 on Mon Sep 11, 2006 at 06:35:21 AM EST

You ignorant, miserable bastard (2.66 / 6) (#11)
by nebbish on Mon Sep 11, 2006 at 07:38:44 AM EST

Kicking someone in the head is like punching them in the foot - Bruce Lee

+1FP (2.66 / 3) (#12)
by mirko on Mon Sep 11, 2006 at 08:00:31 AM EST

I don't often see such blatant examples of occidental stupidity, it was so gross, so predictable (with lots of what Frank Miller describes as "illusions of eloquency") that I laughed a lot at the way you just  missed the opportunity to make this Italian trip what, we, Europeans, really think it is: A delicately delicious parenthesis.
So, you're a retard and you desserve to get your trash published so that everybody knows how lame you are.
(And, BTW, pizza is a Napolitan specialty, don't fly to Roma for it)
Finally I managed to make the decision that I would work on it. - MDC
we had to huddle together - trane
fwah fwah fwah (3.00 / 3) (#23)
by A Bore on Tue Sep 12, 2006 at 12:16:43 PM EST

I am Europeon too dontyeknow! Fwah fwah fwah. I visit Rome inbetween swooning at the natives on the Algarve in my white mess coat with big brass buttons. Fwah, hurrrrr, fwah fwah fwah. One would have been so much comfortabler with one's man in tow.

How one  doublespaces our sentences, when the eloquency won't flow. How very rococo!

It does make me laugh!

[ Parent ]
ns (none / 0) (#28)
by mirko on Wed Sep 13, 2006 at 12:29:43 AM EST

I think I denounced your "occidentality", not the fact you'd have been US-trash (which are the most visible subset of the USians), but if you had a good laugh then it's good, you can change your nick now for "A good one"... ;)
Finally I managed to make the decision that I would work on it. - MDC
we had to huddle together - trane
[ Parent ]
A true classic. (3.00 / 4) (#16)
by Russell Dovey on Mon Sep 11, 2006 at 01:17:37 PM EST

Thankyou for expressively painting such a clear picture of Rome for the uninitiated.

Although you should have painted it on the walls, you neck-cricking fuck.

"Blessed are the cracked, for they let in the light." - Spike Milligan

Try travelling with an open mind (3.00 / 2) (#18)
by shambles on Mon Sep 11, 2006 at 10:26:17 PM EST

Why did you choose to go to Rome? You seem to be much more interested in ancient Roman sites than religion. If you wanted to seem some sites from antiquity, why go to one of the most crowded, busy cites in Italy - did you expect them not to build anything since 476 AD?

There is something particularly obtuse about a tourist complaining about the number of other tourists. Should they have cancelled everybody else's trip so you could feel like a traveller? If you want to see places and buildings that are well known through out the world, just accept that other people might want to do the same thing.

Just some suggestions if you do want to go to more out of the way places - the Roman ruins in Tunisia are superb; uncrowned, relatively untouched and well preserved in the desert heat. Alternatively, if you're feeling adventurous and you really want to avoid the tourists, some of the best Roman sites remaining in the world are in Libya.

Do some research next time, -1.

People are more important than Truth - Edgar Malroy
One thing I dont get (none / 0) (#19)
by smallstepforman on Tue Sep 12, 2006 at 03:36:15 AM EST

I'm a traveller who has visited quite a bit of the world (every continent but Antartica), and the oddest thing I discovered was that in Italian restraurants in Italy, you get charged x2 the amount if you actually sit by a table vs standing by the counter.  What's the reason for this stupidity?  It's actually quite funny to observe all locals eating while standing, and all chairs / tables empty.  Only the tourists who arrive for the very first time are crazy enough to sit down and pay x2.  Until they figure it out.

No other country in the world which I've visited has this stupid tradition.

You don't get it, but many people do... (none / 1) (#27)
by ajft on Tue Sep 12, 2006 at 10:29:37 PM EST

Same in southern France, Spain and a lot of the Mediterranean.

Eat or drink at the bar, you generally just eat and leave, its cheap.

Eat or drink at the table inside, you're more comfortably, you sit for longer, you pay more.

Eat or drink outside at the tables with the view, you probably sit around for loner, you pay even more.

Not odd, not stupidity, its called making money.

[ Parent ]

not in Greece (n/t) (none / 0) (#30)
by Delirium on Thu Sep 14, 2006 at 01:12:45 AM EST

[ Parent ]
i share your impressions (none / 1) (#21)
by trasel on Tue Sep 12, 2006 at 10:52:44 AM EST

rome would be great without the tourists. and the worst spaghetti alla carbonara i've ever eaten was in trastevere. which came as a surprise, since carbonara is a roman creation.

loved the comments on the swiss guard.

anyway, if you ever go back to italy, try perugia (a real gem and no tourists), napoli (much harder to cross the street there, BTW) or cuomo.
Every Latino is born knowing two things: how to lower a Chevy and that the Gringos are always to blame. -- Gary Brecher

Cheers (none / 0) (#22)
by A Bore on Tue Sep 12, 2006 at 12:04:43 PM EST

For lack of time we skipped eating in Trastevere, but it had a good reputation.

[ Parent ]
The opening... (none / 0) (#26)
by frankwork on Tue Sep 12, 2006 at 06:33:18 PM EST

...totally reminded me of this Maciej Ceglowski essay.

weird (none / 0) (#33)
by thankyougustad on Wed Sep 20, 2006 at 09:59:13 AM EST

I'm pretty sure Ray's, unless it isn't the same, is the place that Jim Harrison mentioned repeteadly in his book of peices about food. Was he full of it? Is this author? Was this article partly plagerized?

No no thanks no
Je n'aime que le bourbon
no no thanks no
c'est une affaire de goût.

[ Parent ]
Pizza a Pranzo (none / 0) (#32)
by calumny on Mon Sep 18, 2006 at 09:58:02 PM EST

I don't think you can truly describe the miasma of touristic Rome until you spend some time in the American bars in Campo de' Fiori. Drunken Ship would do, if it's still there.

blah blah blah (3.00 / 2) (#34)
by Comrade Wonderful on Fri Sep 29, 2006 at 01:15:13 PM EST

I feel guilty about masturbating, boo-hoo.  Those nuns made me into an independant intellectual powerhouse who is not afraid to speak the cold hard truth with a humorous, cynical tone.  Waa waa waa.  Gay gay gay.  Poopie poo.  

You're an unappreciative unculture fuckwit. (none / 1) (#35)
by collideiscope on Mon Oct 02, 2006 at 10:40:12 PM EST

What would have made this better is your description at the end of you sticking your dick in a cheese grater. Please add to next story kthx.

Hope is a disease. Get infected.
Pearls for a swinish article (none / 0) (#36)
by mdecerbo on Wed Oct 04, 2006 at 10:40:27 PM EST

What a shitty article. Oooh, there are lots of tourists and Catholics in Rome. Big surprise. If you don't like the crowds and lines, then visit in December; the museums are the same and the airfare is cheaper.

I can say that I had some of the best Italian food I've ever tried at La Carbonara, La Taverna Dei Monti, and at the "Antica Taverna" on via del'Avila (no Web site). Reasonably priced, too.

And if you didn't speak much Italian, that was your choice-- though my grammar remains hopeless, I about tripled my Italian vocabulary in a week. So just what the fuck is wrong with you? Maybe you should take the nuns' advice for a while, just to see what happens.

A Postcard from Rome | 36 comments (29 topical, 7 editorial, 0 hidden)
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