27 August 2005


Might need to be looking for some extra work other than this tourguiding racket. Come September I might have to get a little more resourceful. Apparently sightjogging is hiring... http://www.sightjogging.it/index_eng.html. That's jogging tours through Rome. Seriously. Unfuckingbelievable!

I'm definitely half-qualified to be a jogging tour guide.

I'm half entertaining the idea but, really, it sounds tiring. If I can ever run around a soccer pitch and not end up sore for three days afterwards maybe it'll work. I can't believe there's a market for it...

But, the other day I gave a private tour to some New Yorkers of: The Colosseum, Ancient Rome, The Capitol Hill, the Jewish Ghetto, The Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel... in 3 hours. You can imagine how in-depth it wasn't... we were practically jogging. So maybe I am ready after all.

I don't think so.


21 August 2005


As you can see I've figured out how to add pictures. Simple really: just press the "add images" button. And it only took me three months to jazz this up, but now I've got it figured out...it's like riding a bike.
I sure hope these images aren't copyright, if I ever join the present and get a digital camera then they'll be pictures that i've taken, uncopyrighted. Aweseome. Now that I think about it, I sure hope people read this blog. Otherwise what do the pictures matter? If you are reading this, thanks. Also: look at the pictures!



My favorite street performer in Rome is this guy Marcel. He has a leonine mane of grey hair and a yellow jacket. He sets up by the southernmost fountain (The Fountain of the Moors) in Piazza Navona and does finger puppet dancing. He's really good, very thetrical and professional opening and gathering the crowd with Robbie Williams "Why don't we break up?" Then launching into finger puppet tango with both hands. HE's made these gloves you see, with little characters on them and he uses his index and middle fingers as the legs and his booming sound system to get them happy feet moving. My favorite bit and his big closer is "Smooth Criminal" with his MJ finger puppet and a finger puppet moonwalk that has to be seen to be believed. Afterwards when one goes up to give him some tip he hands out little flyers photocopied on white paper that have a sketched picture of him, smiling underneath his mustache. There's a thought bubble too. He's thinking "Always be who you are and don't let anyone tell you you're wrong" This man's doing what he wants, strange as it is, and doing it well. A hero.



20 August 2005

Pizza Sucks

So it happened just the other day and it was ineveitable, really. I got, all of a sudden, really sick of pizza. Not throw-up-sick but fed-up-tired-of-pizza-sick. It was just before my evening tour the other night. I stopped to get some sustenance at a little pizzeria and had what would be called a pretty good pizza, light, thin crust, cheese melted just right, nice sauce...but I was not interested. That's it, I snapped, i'm sure pizza and I will fall back in love but for now we're fighting. I'm gonna cheat on pizza so bad when Chiara and I go to Amsterdam-nothing but frites for a whole week!! With tonnes of mayonaisse. Mmmm lekker...


19 August 2005

Capuchin Monks

The Capuchin monks have given us a couple of things: first they've given their name to the coffee based beverage the Cappucino, due to the similarity between the colours of the beverage and the colours of the cloaks of the monks. Secondly, they've given us the Crypt of the Capuchin Monks. On the erstwhile high-class street of Via Veneto is a crypt containing the bones of 4,000 Capuchin friars laid out in ornamental patterns and archways. The crypt is a series of hallways with chambers, each specially dedicated to showcasing the use of a particular bone such as vertebrae, or tibulae. Each chamber also has plenty of skulls. Around 4,000 in total. Creepy? Very. The inscription at the end of the corridor in the last chamber is "Quello voi siete, noi eravamo, quello noi siamo, voi sarete" (What you are, we were, what we are, you will be) Above this is the bones of a child laid out like the grim reaper. Apparently it's about the sweet embrace of sister death. As gung-ho as they are, they failed to get me excited about death, however the exhibit is fantastic in terms of a creepy attraction.


12 August 2005


Something you may not know about Rome: it's a hot touristy city. Particularly in the peak summer months of July and August. And right at the peak of August is when all of Rome, more or less, meets the throngs of tourists eager to spend euros up and down the city, with "closed" signs. Everybody here goes on holiday for most of August. Particularly starting this weekend, walking around the streets it's becoming more and more like a ghost town, with many shops and restaurants boarded up. The Rome I imagine from an apocalyptic future. Right at the heat of it all the Romans abandon their city to the tourists and make for the beach. Of course they choose to do this at the peak of the tourist season. As much as they depend on the tourists for their economy, they still won't let that shit stand in the way of a good vacation. These people and their actions defy logic, but I respect it.


09 August 2005

Late July

i'm still here. Italy is still here with me and I'm enjoying my time experiencing new things but not all new experiences are barrels of monkeys.Last weekend Chiara and I went to church camp. It was not to my liking. For people who are really churchy and into non-stop songs espousing the "glory" and "joy" of "God" and "Jesus" this kind of thing would've been perfect. But to Chiara and I, who are less, shall we say, zealous, this was a little trying.

We went at the request of Chiara's mom, who is friends with some(quite cool) nuns. They were having a retreat in the mountains. I thought, sure, i'm open-minded. Unfortunately, the collective spirit of church camp was really scary for me. Overenthusiastic keeners trying to devote every waking hour to some or other religious aspect. I thought somebody might toss a frisbee, or sing a song that didn't involve the words "God" and or "Jesus" in the chorus. Sadly I was mistaken. And uncomfortable. Imagine camping with the Flanders kids and all their friends from Sunday School. In Italian.

However the nuns were cool, as I had been led to believe and camping in the park was nice. The other really redeeming factor was going horseback riding on Sunday.I had a horse named Chico and we got on quite well. Chiara's horse Galleto was also a pretty good horse. Chico definitely had an adventurous free-spirit, but he kept it under wraps through heavy lidded eyes through almost the entirety of the tour. Except for a little unscheduled jaunt at the end. Fun!! I see why horses used to be such a popular form of transportation.It's my birthday this weekend, (so it's not too late to send your wishes). I'm turning 28. There's nothing too big planned, but Chiara and I and a few friends and co-workers will enjoy the free comedy 7 Kings of Rome performed by the Miracle Players just above the Forum. I tried to get in with the Miracle Players to share some comedy with them, but I was too late. Instead i'll enjoy their historical-comedy,or comedic-historical show. After that we're hoping for a jazzy dinner in the park (as in jazz+ dinner). Maybe later a little dancing...but who knows, I am turning 28 and slowing down a little. Though i'd still like to have a little dancing. We'll see.

Last night I got to play a little soccer. Actually calcetto.Mini-soccer on artificial turf. It was great to lace up the boots and trundle around in the not-terribly-skilled Canadian fashion to which i'm accustomed. I think i'll be allowed back. I didn't hip check anybody, and most of my tackles were not too poorly timed. As well I start giving the Vatican Museum/Sistine Chapel tour this week. Got some more studying up to do and then away to the races. I'm pleased to be learning so much about Rome while I'm here, although my language skills suffer from being poorly attended to. Chiara and I are currently planning a vacation for the end of August:Paris (never been!) and Bruxelles and Amsterdam. See some sites inParis and visit friends in Bruxelles (including my old friend Belgian beer) and then to Amsterdam for friends, bike riding and hopefully a little improv.That's just a little news from my end; feel free to let me know how your life is.And if you've forgotten my email address just reply to this mail. My other address (for visitors and mailings) is
Signore Ryan Millar
Via della Magnetite
46Rome Italy00158
...feel free to send me your address, the pope and I may drop you a line.

Ryan Fonzarelli


The Zoo

Yesterday Chiara and I went to the Zoo. Well, technically the "BioParco." Sure it used to be a zoo with cages and bars and unhappy animals, now it's, well a little better. The animals were pretty lethargic and slow, but it was the middle of the afternoon in August, and many of them were very furry. The cages for the most part now have more of a "habitat" feel to them and I appreciated this. You know who else appreciated this? The brown bears. The brown bears were having a brown bear party in their enclosure with waterfall, pond, logs, grass, and pigeons to eat their excrement. So all in all they were pretty happy. The King and Queen of the Jungle were pretty tired but that's how I understand lions to be: ferocious but sleepy. Too bad, because they should be making babies. There aren't very many lions left, they're almost extinct. Good thing this couple has a safe place to stay. I learned about the near extinction of the lions thanks to the strong conservation message at the BioParco. They get a good mark for conservation message (a solid B) and as for the habitats, I'd give it a C+, because there's no cement in nature. However if you asked the brown bears, i'm sure they'd either claw you to death, or give it an A.


04 August 2005

Occupational Hazards

The single greatest occupational hazard of being a tour guide in Rome is definitely sunburn. Fortunately that is easily handled by applying sunscreen. The second greatest, and in many ways more nefarious occupational hazard is being caught by the police. It's a strange job: in many ways akin to being a cool, approachable, history professor. In other ways, especially in the eyes of the polizia it's more akin to being a drug dealer.

To explain: to be a tour guide (technically) requires a license. To get this license it's not really what you know, it's more who you know. The word nepotism comes from the Italian word for nephew and is based on the practice maybe not invented here, but certainly perfected here, of helping out your friends and relatives whenever you can hook them up. Your authority equals their career advancement . I've heard lots of stories how this applies in the process for becoming a licensed tour guide. Though to be fair, most of this hearsay has come from unlicensed tour guides.

Nonetheless, the way to become a tour guide, if you're not Italian, don't speak Italian, and don't have Italian connezione is to just, well, do it. Like I did.

However this can invite the ire of licensed tour guides, who, in a shocking display of unprofessional behaviour have been known to interrupt their own tours to interrupt unlicensed tours. Creating an awkward and unpleasant situation for everybody. This is a patently stupid and infantile thing to do.

However the rampant unregulated illegal tour guiding industry has engendered the creation of a special vice squad dedicated to watching and following illegal guides and trying to catch them giving free tours. It's all quite juvenile because if somebody wants to come on a free tour and tip you that's not really anyone elses business but the people involved. Ayone can give me 5 bucks, just like I can give them 5 bucks if I want to. Right? Even the untaxable income arguments fall apart in light of how much "black work" is carried out here in Italy.

Anyway, 2 days ago one of our Vatican tours was busted by an Italian police officer posing as an undercover tour guide. He had with him 2 municipale and a freckle-faced Australian national who works as tour guide spy.

It's unbelievable.

Anyway he came over and in a loud and beligerent manner made our guide give everybody their money back (in order to embarass us) and threatened to fine all of the tourists 2000 euros. I would say this is bad PR for all concerned. In addition our guide got a 2000 euro fine of her own and was threatened with deportation. We'll see what happens. This event has serious repercussions for our guide (who unfortunately was in the position of collecting money that day. The day before it was me). And it points to a larger problem:
the problem really for me is: what the fuck is the problem with giving free tours and then getting people to come on tours of say, the Vatican. Licensed guides say it takes away their business, but really, all of these people on the free tours were on their way to St. Peter's alone, without a tour guide just going to wander around. These people never were, and never were going to be, their clients. And as for the not paying taxes or lack of regulation arguments or any of those arguments I say: Really? Really? C'mon, give me a break. There are gypsies on street corners, in train cars, and in the metro, and guys selling knock-off sunglasses and handbags all over town as well as car thieves and pickpockets all over town and you have a squad dedicated to cracking down on people giving free tours of the church. Really? Seriously? You're joking right?

Sadly, no. They're not joking. And I will continue this cat and mouse game, and my Roman studies, but keep one eye on the cops, and the other firmly on the Want Ads.


01 August 2005

Colloseo Birthday

The chance to ring in my birthday with friends red wine and profiteroles looking up at the colloseum made all my apprehensions about my birthday and so on, just fade into the background. As midnight rolled around and it became the 31st, and I became 28, I enjoyed the sight of the nearly 2,000 year old colloseum, with a group of good folks. Also while we were there and going to the club we picked up some cute Swedish girls who came out to party with us. It was fun, and it sounds like it should've been a wild dirty party, but it wasn't really. However it was a good time.

Before dessert and before dinner we checked out The 7 Kings of Rome. Akll in all a pretty good piece of work. Uneven acting, but a funny comedy and a concept well executed. If you want to do comedy acting in Rome, make it relevant to the history. And mine mine mine the nearly three thousand years of source material. As The Miracle Players have done.