DAY 5: Men's Basketball in Italy

ROMA – Ciao once again, this time from our final stop -- Rome!

It was a decent little ride from Florence to Rome today, almost four hours from the time we got on the bus until the time we arrived at the Colosseum. That included a stop at one of the rest areas along the Autostrade (main highway). Here in Italy they are almost always called an “Autogrill,” although the one we stopped at today had one building that was an Autogrill and another that was -- shades of home -- called “On The Run” and from the outside looked exactly like an American “On The Run.” Not the same on the inside, of course, but perfectly serviceable.

(Many elements of this trip have been, shall we say, FLUID. Today was a great example. Our itinerary said we were supposed to go to the hotel to meet up with our tour guide and a new bus. Our bus driver instead took us to the Colosseum, then had to call our tour guide -- who was at the hotel waiting for us -- to tell her to come meet us there. She arrived and, instead of having about 90 minutes, she only had about 15 minutes to give us some notes about the Colosseum and surrounding area. I wasn’t there, but by all accounts of those who WERE there it was a quality 15 minutes.)

The Colosseum is awesome. From the outside, honestly, it reminded a lot of the guys of Franklin Field with its archways. Once we got inside it became much more real. You could read about what went on in there along the various passageways, but most the guys felt like they knew from the movie “Gladiator.” (No doubt a movie that romanticized the absolute brutality that took place within these walls, but if that’s what the guys wanted to believe then who am I to stop them?)

After about an hour there we got back on our bus -- our original bus -- and were taken to our hotel, the Hotel Cicerone. It is, um, QUAINT. I’m sharing a room with Phil Samko on this trip, and when we got to our room our twin beds were placed right next to each other. In typical Sam fashion, he saw the beds and immediately said, “this is good…I can reach over and smack you when you snore the next few nights.”

The drive from the Colosseum to the hotel was a good one, thanks to Coach Allen. He played in this city for a few years, of course, so we kept passing buildings and he would yell out to the guys what it was. We will be visiting them soon enough, but it was good to get a sense of where things were. Upon first impression, Rome is FAR larger than Florence or Venice. Four days and nights may not be enough time to cover all of it!

After showers and a little time for rest and relaxation, we took a bus (which was nearly an hour late, thanks to traffic) to our dinner at Tre Scalini, in the Piazza Navona. The dinner was fantastic and the atmosphere was unbeatable -- there was a guitarist outside the patio, who was soon joined by an older man who sang what I assume were classic Italian songs. (Many in the restaurant were joining along.) The Piazza was filled with activity, most of the artistic variety, and by the time we had wrapped up the meal the nearly full moon was casting an incredible glow on the entire square.

The guys had free time after the meal, and the hotel turned out to be a short walk away -- a nice change, after being in pretty remote locations in both Venice and Florence -- so most of them walked around with Coach Allen while some of the staff stayed behind to enjoy a few bottles of wine and trade old war stories. All in all, a good night.

We will be in Rome the rest of the trip, leaving Friday morning to return to America. Everyone is looking forward to the next two days, both of which will feature games. We are playing near Naples on Tuesday, and near Perugia on Wednesday.