February 7, 2017

Rome. October, 1986

When I was in elementary school, our rare class trips were to dry, minimally interesting, often Catholic-related venues -- local cathedrals, the Maryknoll Mission, some “living rosary” in a nearby baseball stadium, you get the idea. So while traveling in Europe, I’m always charmed whenever school groups turn up in places like the Prado, the Louvre or Milan’s Brera (where I once heard a guide hold schoolchildren in thrall as he explained foreshortening in the paintings of Andrea Mantegna. Imagine.) My favorite encounter, bar none, was here at the Forum in Rome. Through historic temples, past the ruined Senate, in front of Nero’s Golden Palace, checking out Livia’s house, the rambunctious kids traipsed, swathed in bedsheet togas whose drapings sometimes appeared to owe less to Calpurnia and more to Mother Teresa or Indira Gandhi. I smiled, asked to take a photo, and their teacher tactfully explained, “Romani anziani.” Ancient Romans, indeed.

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