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Memories of Rome, and Norwegian hospitality
April 13, 2012 - Stephen Browne
It appears gladiators are no longer welcome in the Colosseum.
Seems about 30 not-so-ancient Romans have been making a living hanging around the Colosseum in costumes charging to have their picture taken with tourists. Apparently, they're kind of aggressive about hustling customers so the city fathers made it illegal to wear costumes in or around the ancient edifice.
I visited Rome in 1997 I believe, and I did see the Colosseum but I never saw any of these guys, which seems a pity now.
The Colosseum is I have to say, seemed a lot smaller than I had imagined. And unfortunately in pretty poor shape. I saw a much better preserved arena in Tunisia once, where we tourists were actually allowed to climb up the stairs into the seats. As I recall, the stairs were much steeper than we are used to, and each step was quite high. You really had to lift your leg up to climb them.
I think it may have had something to do with the necessity of stacking the audience as near to the action as possible. Unlike modern team sports, gladiatorial combats were generally one-on-one sorts of affairs and you had to be fairly close to see the fine points of the blood and gore.
I was in Rome for a conference and stayed about a week afterward with a Norwegian friend who arranged for us to have the use of an apartment owned by the Norwegian diplomatic service.
That was one of the most pleasant weeks of my life. We'd wander around the city and duck into a cafe or bistro whenever we felt hungry or thirsty, or just wanted to sit down. Aside from the Colosseum we saw the Spanish Stairs and looked through the window into the apartment where poet John Keats died.
In the evenings we'd sit around over bread, cheese and prosciutto, with a bottle of wine.
One day we had lunch with some staff from the Norwegian embassy - and here's something that ought to embarrass all of us in America. Of course the staff spoke Italian, all diplomats receive intensive language instruction before they are sent anywhere. But these Norwegians all spoke English as well, because everybody in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Finland studies English.
At a table of about eight people, everybody spoke English even when conversing with each other, just out of courtesy to me.
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