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Italy, September 10, 2008

Commuting Like the Romans

When in Rome, go to work like the Romans

roman bus
Roman short bus
romans hustling to work
Romans commuting to work
pyramid subway stop
A Roman subway sign
When in Rome for a work meeting, one commutes to the office like a Roman. On a random Wednesday in September, I did just that - commuted like a Roman - and was shocked by the similarities and uniqueness of a Roman commute.

First, most Romans live in apartment buildings. So you'll wipe the sleep from your eyes as you navigate winding stairwells down to the street. Then you'll walk to the nearest bus stop, maybe a block or two away from your apartment building.

Roman buses are quite clean and efficient. My favorite are the short buses - electric buses about the size of a car, they navigate the narrow streets of Roman neighbourhoods no full-size bus could manage.

Both these and regular buses work on the honor system. Like in Russia, you can board through any door and should stamp your ticket if you need to. I had a Roma Pass, a great tourist pass that allows for unlimited rides over three days.

I took the bus to the subway station, and disappeared into its labyrinth along with the waves of Roman commuters heading off to their respective day jobs. The subway itself reminded me of the New York and London subway systems - small and claustrophobic compared to WMATA, but required to be so to be retrofitted into such history.

The first railcar I took had a surprising amount of graffiti on the outside. Again I may be spoiled by WMATA, but not even New York has this much tagging anymore. The next rail car was much more modern and European. Sadly, it also had endless televisions tuned to endless commercials - an unneeded visual pollution in the morning.

When I arrived at my station, I exited the subway and looked for a café. I needed an espresso in the morning to be really Roman, and to my shock, I found a café that was as much a morning pick-me up and a pick up spot.

With cool glass and steel looks, the café does double duty - it’s a morning coffee stop and an evening hangout. Unless it’s a random Wednesday morning where I saw at least two separate couples form over cappuccinos, numbers hastily scribbled as cheeks blushed and winks sealed the connection.

Leaving the café, I had another shock. One best shown as video not text. So please, press play and witness the sights of a Roman commute.

Now when was the last time you saw a pyramid at your subway stop? You would, daily, if you commuted, Roman style.

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Italy, September 9, 2008

Hitting My Hippodrome Stride

My morning run route
Back in Roman times, the Piazza Navona was not a piazza, it was a hippodrome, a chariot racecourse where Rome's fastest drivers competed for fame and glory in front of cheering crowds.

Two-thousand years of history later, I am competing with myself as I run the very same course as those chariot drivers. I have not their horses, crowds, or any real glory. Just the clear morning air and the joy of running seven laps around history:

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Italy, September 8, 2008

Water Fountain Wealth in Rome

Water from death
Image that you lived in Roman times. When clean, fresh water was a rarity in most cities of the world, cholera was a constant risk and dysentery was the norm. Now image coming to Rome where every city block had a fountain that ran all day and all night, gurgling with clear mountain water drinkable from the tap.

This water wealth was one of the defining characteristics of Rome, a stunning accomplishment before the advent of indoor plumbing or even urban sewers. And when the Goths broke the aqueducts that brought this water from afar, the city crumbled and fell into a thousand year disuse.

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Italy, September 7, 2008

Trevi Fountain's Tourist Traffic Jams

Too many tourists!
The Trevi Fountain is a famous landmark in Rome mainly due to a myth that says coins thrown in the fountain will ensure you return to Rome. While I can only confirm that means you threw your money in a fountain, I can predict that no matter if you return or not, there will be crowds at the Trevi Fountain.

Amy and I stayed at a hotel just around the corner of the fountain, and no matter the time, day or night, the Trevi Fountain was crowded. And not just a few tourists crowded, but mobbed by people watching the waterspouts. Check out the Trevi Fountain scene yourself:

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Italy, September 6, 2008

Congratulations Sean and Tara!

The wedded couple happiness
Hello everyone, a moment of your time, please, for this toast to Sean and Tara.

For those that may not know, I am Sean's cousin, Wayan. Sean's American cousin. And to the many who have asked me this Friday night before his wedding, yes, Sean has American relatives. In fact, here is a dirty little secret:

Sean is half American. I would suggest his better half. Certainly, like me, his better looking half.

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Italy, September 5, 2008

A Lake Como Water Taxi Lifestyle

Don't miss the taxi boat!
Would you ever think there could be a "water taxi lifestyle"? After a long weekend on Lake Como, taking the water taxi daily, and twice on Sunday, I declare there is such a lifestyle, and its high living at that.

Dressed in a tux, my hot pregnant wife at my side, I step onto the gangplank of a Lake Como water taxi with a spring in my step. The boatmen, strapping young Italians, politely gesture to a fine wooden seat, where Amy and I retire to enjoy our ride.

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