Every era has its challenges

Our dear friend Meg used to always say that every era had its share of bad taste, which was very reassuring and liberating, somehow, especially when shopping in antique stores. It is equally certain that no period in history is without its challenges, whether it’s looking for a wet nurse or fending off the enemy hordes.

What better place in Rome to experience many centuries of those challenges, as depicted in art, than the Capitoline Museums.

Open to the public in 1734, they are considered the first in the world, a place where art could be enjoyed by all and not only by the owners.  The design of the trapezoidal piazza and its three buildings was conceived by Michaelangelo, to make sense of what was not very coherent at that point. It took 400 years to execute his plan, but the man know what he was doing. The collection began with, and has benefited from, many contributions (pagan cast-offs?) from the Vatican, and has grown to include a large number of ancient Roman statues, a collection of medieval and Renaissance art and many other items.

One of the modern challenges we faced began with the large number of school children also choosing today to visit the museum. Combine their numbers with the new security system, which allows for one person at a time to go through the scanner, and you have a very long wait to get into the doors. One. At a time. Hence the lines fore and aft.

And then there are the technology challenges of the modern era. We were committed to using the audio guides here, but alas, they “weren’t working” today. Guess they have a union just like everyone else. So we slogged on – despite the fact that directional signage in this museum cannot be faulted, as it does not exist. Must be one of those small economies that helps to balance the books. But just to be ornery, we are never telling anyone else where the elevator is hidden.

Now, that off the chest, let’s marvel at the art. The statue of Marcus Aurelius on the piazza is a copy, but the gilded original is safe inside. It was protected because the popes thought it was a portrayal of Constantine, so it made it through some touchy eras.

All of the bronzes are amazing, and some go back to the 6th century BC.

And then, of course, there are the masterpieces in marble, celebrating the human body and some of its parts, along with assorted animals, gods and goddesses.

Some of the other art was hanging on the wall, and some just was the wall, or the floor, or the ceiling.

Our last day in Rome…it is impossible to take it all in.

Don’s Food Corner

Yesterday when we walked past the Victor Emmanuel monument and on to our hotel which is nearby, I pointed to a recommended restaurant and said:  “That’s where we’ll have lunch tomorrow.” Happily, I double-checked on it. And, unlike every other quality restaurant in Rome that is closed on Monday, this one is closed on Tuesday. Thwarted again.

When lunchtime rolled around today, we were in the museum and it was raining.  Since most of our museum cafeteria experiences have been pretty good, we opted to just stay indoors. We stuck with the basics:  A margherita pizza for me and cannelloni for Jo – which they insisted was lasagna.  Plus, we had a mixed salad.  (No wine. We had some more art to look at.)  Everything was fine.  Nothing special.

However, a word or two about the ordering process at most cafeterias and stores selling freshly prepared food — like bakeries, sandwich shops, delis, butchers.  There is apparently some law that forbids people who handle food to also handle money.  That means, you don’t just select what you want and then pay the person who hands you the food.  Oh, no.

First, you tell the food person what you want, then you go to another part of the store (or cafeteria) and tell a cashier what you ordered.  Or the food person yells to the cashier what you ordered.  Or the cashier yells to the food person to ask what was ordered and the food person yells back.  Or, sometimes, you order at the cashier’s station and the cashier yells to the food person your order.  Then, you take the receipt the cashier gives you and go back with it to the food person.  Usually, the food person will examine the receipt to make sure it is correct and then tear it partly in half and hand it back to you along with the food.

Every establishment, it seems, has a slightly different procedure for handling all this back and forth. Also, the volume of the yelling differs.  Each place is a new learning experience.  When we first arrived in Italy and before I got used to this, I tried to hand money to a food person as I gave an order.  You should have seen the look of horror on the food person’s face — like I was trying to throw dog feces across the counter.

Today’s experience at the cafeteria brought all this to a new level.  Instead of taking a tray and going down a line of food possibilities and selecting what you want and then paying for it at the end, there was a cashier stationed BEFORE you see the food.  You had to order and pay for whatever you wanted without really knowing (unless you’d been there before) what to order. That’s why we stumbled around and ordered something we thought they might have had.  We made the mistake of first going to look at the food on display, but unless you could memorize all the different Italian names for the things you wanted, you had to punt.

So, we made our order and paid for it.  Then we waited around for it to be placed on a tray by a food person.  But the person who would serve the beverages was at a place beyond the place where the food was delivered.  We had to wait while the beverage person prepared what seemed like endless cups of espresso (a complicated process in Italy!) before our receipt was carefully examined and two Cokes could be handed to us.

I guess all this makes sense to the Italians.  Just like the driving patterns.

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