Saturday, June 16, 2007


I have spent the past few weeks in the gastronomic paradise of Italia. I do not want to eat any more pasta for the next six months--enough is enough. But I do not think I could ever tire of gelato. I think my favorite combination (b/c I always ate gelato with at least two flavors) was chocolate and raspberry, which, incidentally, was the very first combination I tried. Perhaps some of the best food was in Bologna, the least touristy place I went and the city that boasts the first university in Europe (a close second goes to the University of Paris). The lasagna here was absolutely fantastic. Throughout Italy, there always seemed to be plenty of artichokes and zucchine, which, for me, was heaven since I love both. And, I have to say, the award for best olives in Italy has to go to the South (the area around Naples, the originator of pizza), but I must note that no place even approximated the olives I had in Greece. And, of course, I had the pizza.

Whenever you travel in space, you inevitably travel in time, whether looking at the ancient forum, the Colosseum, or even St Peter's Basilica in Rome, the medieval town of Siena, Renaissance art in Florence (especially wonderful in this regard are Fra Angelico's works in San Marco), or the former naval empire of Venice with its numerous canals (and no cars!). But one senses it most potently in the southern city of Pompei, an entire city eerily and perhaps frighteningly preserved due to a disastrous volcanic eruption of Mt Vesuvius in the first century. The streets are crowded (except the one shown here) with mobs of tourists and the inevitable ghosts of 2000 years ago, whether one goes to the ancient forum, the best preserved and oldest known amphitheater, the baker's shop, the ancient brothel, or the numerous private homes that one can now wander through. It is a city frozen in time in which perhaps the real ghosts (or phantoms of some presence out of place and in the wrong time) are us. Perhaps in two thousand years people will be wandering through my former haunts, taking pictures, analyzing them for research, or putting them on their walls, or posting them on their futuristic blogs. Tourists will come in droves and scholars will examine every nook and cranny to try to understand everyday life in hoary antiquity. Or, like most people and places in far-off times, we will be forgotten. Which is worse--to be exploited for knowledge or irrecoverably lost?

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