All roads lead to Rome and that’s where I’m going in a couple of weeks with my wife and grandson. I booked the trip before my son died in June, and part of me is sorry I did because I don’t have as much enthusiasm for it since he passed. This grieving process is sapping my strength. Hopefully that enthusiasm will return when we all get there. The trip is paid for and I’ll make the best of it.
Our 14-year-old grandson, Riley, already knows quite a lot about Rome and he’ll be fun to have along with the eternal city and its environs being so saturated in history. I also know that Italy is changing fast and it may not exist in its present form much longer. All of Europe is being transformed by a Muslim invasion and by decades of socialism, so much so that many refer to it as “post-Christian.” Many churches, for example, are being sold off and reopened as mosques. The Eurozone is paralyzed by welfare states full of dependents and pensioners they can no longer afford.
Hagia Sophia became the Blue Mosque
For months I’ve tried to book a personal guide. Several were recommended by friends who have been to Rome and given me contact information for them, but they don’t get back to me. Last week I contacted the Lewiston, Maine travel agency that booked our Israel trip to see if it would give me a contact. A woman there said she’s not surprised at the lack of response because “that’s how they are in Italy; they procrastinate.” I’ve given up on a personal guide so now I’m booking small-group tours of the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s, the Coliseum, the Forum, and so forth.
One of Rome's hop on/hop off busses
Happily, I saw on Trip Advisor that Rome has a “hop-on, hop-off” bus system. When visiting Dublin, that was a great way to spend the first day — on the open upper deck listening to the bus driver wittily describe what we were seeing as we passed by. Unhappily however, I read reviews of Rome’s “hop-on, hop-off” busses and they were dismal. “Stay away!” and “Don’t bother!” and “You’re better off walking!” said virtually all commenters who had happily used them in other European cities. Rome is different, they said. Employees are rude; the busses are dirty and disorganized. Forty-five-minute waits at bus stops are the norm.
Dark clouds over Rome, again?
A July article in the UK Telegraph said: “The Eternal City is facing crisis, with its administration engulfed in corruption scandals and debt, its roads scarred by pot-holes, the main airport partially closed and a growing immigration crisis… ‘Rome is on the verge of collapse,’ Giancarlo Cremonesi, the president of the Rome Chamber of Commerce, told Reuters. ‘It is unacceptable that a major city which calls itself developed can find itself in such a state of decay.’”
My wife Roseann at her grandfather's house in Greece
Last year my wife and I toured Greece with her family. While her grandfather’s village in the Peloponnese seemed in fine shape, the rest of the country looked like a basket case teetering on bankruptcy. In Athens, graffiti covered nearly every vertical surface reachable by a vandal with a spray can. Across the countryside, abandoned construction projects were everywhere. After we left, Greeks elected a left-wing government which said to the EU: We don’t plan to pay back the billions you’ve already lent us, and we demand you lend us more! Italy and Spain, also on the brink, watched to see if the EU [European Union] would cave in to Greek demands. It did. How long can countries in southern Europe spend beyond their means? How long will northern Europe keep bailing them out?
Where it stops, nobody knows
We plan to spend most of our time touring sites in the city, but I rented a car and we will go into the Italian countryside for at least a couple of days. I want to get a feel for the country and the only way to do that is to go off the beaten track. So-called refugees from Africa and the Middle East are flocking into Italy, which is trying to get other European countries to take them. Pope Francis is asking every Catholic parish to accept a family, but there seems to be few of them — 80% of the wave of “migrants” making news lately are young men in their 20s and 30s. There are very few women and children or elderly. Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic are suspicious. Most are said to be of “fighting age” and ISIS said its fighters were among them. Many rejected food aid because it came in boxes with Red Crosses.
I’ll be asking ordinary Italians their opinions. I suspect they’re much like ordinary Americans concerning illegal immigrants here: They don’t agree with the elites.