The Frescoes of the Casa dell’Efebo

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A visit to Pompeii should be on everyone’s bucket list. It is absolutely eerie walking down the paving stones, looking at the ruts made by the chariots and carts, seeing the blackened loaves of ossified bread the baker had just taken out of the oven and the plaster casts of the long-dead victims, their faces frozen in gasping terror.

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It is also absolutely marvelous to see how well-preserved the art still is. Pompeii was like the Hamptons of Rome, an escape for the wealthy citizens who wanted to be near the sea and away from the swampy and muggy Roman weather. The walls of the large villas are covered in frescoes depicting gods and goddesses; the frescoes in the brothel are imaginatively X-rated.

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The American Journal of Archeology has just published a study of the Nilotic scenes found in the garden of the Casa dell’Efebo, and they are stunning.

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Evidently the Romans were as interested in Egyptian culture as we still are.

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Smart.

THE ETERNAL CITY…SORTA

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One of my favorite memories as a tourist was when I was wandering around Rome, not paying attention to where I was, and I turned the corner from a dark curving street and there was the Trevi Fountain in all its glory. I’d had no idea it was even there, which is why that moment is still incredibly vivid.

Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi gestures before the taping of the talk show "Telecamere" at Rai television in Rome

Italy is always worth a visit, but the Italians—I mean, come on. According to an investigation reported here, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/new-mafia-group-sweeps-across-rome-sucking-hundreds-of-millions-of-euros-out-of-italys-nearbankrupt-capital-9901509.html, the corruption of the Romans in power and the Mafia who line their pockets is totally out of control. To the tune of $20 billion.

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That’s a lot of pasta.

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Thank goodness your new mayor uncovered the filth before it got worse. Read about him here: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/12/06/the-mayor-who-took-down-the-mafia-that-ruined-rome.html

I know we have our problems here, but honestly, Romans, do get it together before your city falls apart completely.

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Like Pompeii.

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VESUVIUS UNLEASHED

I really wish I were in London right now to see the exhibit opening today at the British Museum: Life and Death, Pompeii and Herculaneum.

Going to Pompeii was one of the best trips I’ve ever had. The place is absolutely haunted, transfixing, and heartbreaking. Because it was buried in ash for thousands of years, what was finally uncovered is in pristine condition (or would be if the Italians could get their act together to maintain the ruins properly). You need little imagination to understand how the citizens of that small town lived their daily lives before Vesuvius buried them alive in AD 79.

The highlights of this exhibit include over 250 objects, many of which have never left Italy before. They can’t replace the experience of walking on the paved streets, the slumbering mountain looming in the distance, but they’ll still be fascinating. Doubtless lots of snickers will be heard in the room with the erotic statue of the god Pan having it on with a goat.

Oh, those naughty Romans!

For details and tickets go to http://www.britishmuseum.org/whats_on/exhibitions/pompeii_and_herculaneum.aspx