Monday, August 6, 2012

A Day in the Life of Ancient Rome

In 2010, when I visited Paris, I also took a two-week jaunt into Italy. I spent one week in Florence and one week in the Tuscan countryside with its many hill towns. I also took a one-day trip to Rome.

I caught the morning express train from Florence and arrived at Stazione di Roma Termini, Rome's main train station, about 90 minutes later. From there I walked across a square and caught one of those open-air, two-decker tour buses. I passed the Colosseum, an impressive statue of general and philosopher Marcus Aurelius, crossed the Tiber River and got off the bus in St. Peter's Square.

I had arranged for a private tour guide to take me through the Vatican Museum. I had time before I was to meet him to sit in a cafe across the street from the entrance to the museum and watch the line of visitors grow longer and longer. It was a drizzly, cloudy day and I was glad I was not going to have to stand in that line but could wait safely dry and warm at a table under the awning of Caffe Vaticano.

After my maybe two- to two-and-a-half hour tour, that ended up in the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's Basilica, I caught another tour bus back to the train station and was back in Florence before dark.

A rather whirlwind tour of the Eternal City but one which recently prompted me to buy a Europa Edition of A Day in the Life of Ancient Rome by Alberto Angela. I figured I had spent a day in modern Rome so why not see what a day in ancient Rome was like.

The book, written by the host of two of Italy's science television programs, takes look at a day in 115 CE Rome hour by hour from dawn to midnight. It is a promising premise. I am not sure if it is due to the translation or not, but it seems as if it is written for schoolchildren. Even though the book weighs in at almost 400 pages.

An example:

It's time to get dressed. How do Romans dress? We're used to seeing them, in movies and on TV shows, wrapped in colorful togas that look like long sheets. But do they dress like that all the time?

The text is scattered with such questions:
Do Romans wear underpants? Where do they sleep? Where is the smell of burning wood coming from? What do the women of Rome wear?

Reminds me of textbook speak. Just tell me what you want me to know. You don't have to try and pique my interest with questions.

I am only up to 7:15 a.m. - The Well Groomed Roman Man - and am already tired of the author's tiresome style.

Perhaps it will get better. We shall see.

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