BUONGIORNO! ... OR THE FINAL INSTALLMENT OF HOW I SPENT MY SUMMER VACATION (I MEAN BUSINESS TRIP)
ROME— On the final day of our summer vacation … Well, there I go again. Let me start over … On the final day of our summer business trip (Note to IRS: Really), Judge Claudia and I hired a driver to escort us to all the wonderful attractions of Rome.
We weren’t the only tourists … or rather business conference attendees … that hired this driver. There were about 100 of us who hired him and climbed into his big green bus.
Actually, Judge Claudia and I climbed on top of the big green bus as it was a big double decker, and from our perch we had a splendid view of this incredible city.
Our first stop was the Colosseum. As a life-long sports fanatic, this was the Roman attraction I most looked forward to seeing. But I have to confess, I was disappointed.
First, the place is really run down. In fact, it resembles the Mid-South Coliseum in Memphis.
If Rome ever hopes to get an NFL expansion franchise, they’re going to have to dramatically renovate the place with sky boxes, a retractable dome, and a jumbotron.
The Colosseum doesn’t even have a scoreboard. I was fully expecting to see one that said “LIONS 10, CHRISTIANS 0.” There is no doubt that the Colosseum was quite the arena in its heyday when it was the site for ABC’s Monday Night Gladiators.
But at this point, the citizens of Rome should probably just tear the place down, take a page out of Nashville’s play- book, and build a brand new state of the art arena with a corporate sponsor. They could call it the Adelphia Coliseum. Wait a minute, I think Nashville wound up having a problem with that name.
A new stadium might actually attract Rome an NFL franchise, and I have the perfect name for it: The Roman Gabriels. (You have to be a very old football fan to get that joke.)
Our second stop was Circus Maximus. Again, it was not at all what I expected. I thought it would feature trapeze artists and bearded Italian ladies and an Italian human cannon ball being fired from a cannon.
It was not really a circus at all. As it turned out, it was ancient Rome’s Bristol International Speedway featuring chariot races. You can just imagine the announcements on ancient Rome radio: “Sunday! Sunday! Sunday! Nitro-charged Funny Chariots at Circus Maximus!”
Our driver told us over the bus’s PA system that in its day, Circus Maximus could hold 250,000 spectators. This gave me an incredible idea. They should put a football field in the middle of Circus Maximus and have the Tennessee Volunteers play Notre Dame before the largest crowd in college football history.
Our next stop was the House of the Vestal Virgins. This is something you’ll never find in the United States these days. (Go ahead. Insert your own joke here.)
We then visited the Roman Forum, the center of the civic and economic life in Rome’s republican times.
In fact, the Roman Forum strongly resembled our own Republican congress, as there wasn’t a senator in sight. Apparently they had all gone back to their districts for fund-raisers.
Our tour ended at a church, and when I say a church, I mean A CHURCH! … St. Peter’s Basilica. Talk about God’s house! God has a really nice house in Rome! As a Southern Baptist’s PK (preacher’s kid), I always thought no one could beat Baptists when it comes to building campaigns.
My father used to say that insofar as Baptists are concerned, “When the going gets tough, the tough have a building campaign!”
Well, St. Peter’s makes Bellevue Baptist look like the little brown church in the dell.
Judge Claudia and I were hoping to get a glimpse of St. Peter’s pastor, the Pope. I understand that when he preaches, he draws bigger crowds than Billy Graham drew to his crusade in Neyland Stadium in 1970.
But while we were in Rome on a Sunday, I guess the Pope took the day off.
We were hoping he might at least drive by in his Popemobile (that’s what they really call the Pope’s car), but we never saw him.
Perhaps we’ll see him in a few years when he tosses the coin before the kickoff of the Tennessee - Notre Dame game in Circus Maximus.
Our final stop was for Italian gelato.
The Italians are obsessed with gelato, and after eating about 50 cones of the stuff, I understand why. I have a real weakness for ice cream, but American ice cream pales in comparison to Italian gelato.
It’s a good thing I don’t live in Italy. If I did, I would eat about 10 gelatos a day and soon resemble an Italian version of the Pillsbury doughboy.
They say all roads lead to Rome, but for Judge Claudia and me, the road from Rome led back home to Memphis.
And now that we are finally over the jetlag, Judge Claudia and I agree that our trip to Italy was our best vacation ever … Well, there I go again. It was our best business trip ever. (Note to the IRS: Really.)