Bread and Circuses

nam qui dabat olim imperium, fasces, legiones, omnia, nunc se continet atque duas tantum res anxius optat, panem et circenses” Juvenal. Satire 10.

“…for that sovereign people that once gave away military command, consulships, legions, and every thing, now bridles its desires, and limits its anxious longings to two things only: bread and games of the circus” Juvenal. Satire 10.

Arno you love the view of the Ponte Vecchio in the rain

So, we went to Italy

A wonderful trip

The 50th Birthday present from me and my wife to me and my wife

To paraphrase Ferris Bueller, it is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend it

We weren’t looking for grand entertainment at any point in our trip, but, we got it

One evening in Florence

Bread and circuses

Apertivos and acts

Upon our arrival in Florence, we were whisked away to our hotel on the Arno River overlooking the Ponte Vecchio

I took the above-picture immediately upon arrival in our riverside room

The view stunned, even in the rain. The pouring rain. The monsoonal rain. The driving rain. The cats and dogs rain. Rain so hard that the concierge apologized like he could do anything about it kind of rain

We had a walking tour of Florence scheduled

Which we took

In said downpour

With umbrellas and rain coats

Stops by the Palazzo Strozzi, where Donatello, the Renaissance will be exhibited until July, the Palazzo Medici Riccardi with the capella portraying Cosimo, Lorenzo, and crew as the Magi, the Duomo, the Baptistry with the Gates of Paradise, the Giotto designed Campanile, the Piazza Republica, the Porcellino, the Old Bridge

And, of course, the Galleria dell’Accademia to see David, the Slaves, and St. Matthew by you-know-who

The hand that held the stone by Sr. di Lodovico Buonaratti Simoni, aged 26-29

Two plus hours with our guide Angela, former marketing executive for Gucci under this American dude named Tom Ford

May be you’ve heard of him? IDK

She’s now a licensed guide, which is, come si dice, “BIG DEAL”

She was not a name dropper, but I did ask her about her schedule in the last two years. Her last guided tour before Rona was for the Board of Trustees for the Getty

Wait, the Getty in Los Angeles?

Si si si

So, there we two Sandlappers were walking around Florence with the lady who probably gives the Queen of Norway tours when she’s in town

After two plus hours we parted ways with Angela, telling her we would see her again on the following Tuesday for more Florentine fun

We parted ways right across the Ponte Vecchio



And, it was back to our hotel to get out of the soggy clothes

By then, it was almost 5 p.m. and the sun was just starting to peek out under the clouds heading towards a beautiful sunset west over the Arno

Golden Hour

Ora d’Oro

Took that walking back across the Ponte Vecchio with MP and bestie Angela

More importantly, by then, it was almost time for an apertivo, the most delightful of Italian inventions

A drink

A few nibbles

To open the appetite before the evening meal…since apertivo means to open


One or two drinks before supper

We call it cocktail hour, but apertivo sounds so much more, well, civil

After changing into drier clothes, I began to see what was close to us

“There’s always downstairs”

Yes, always

We’re big fans of hotel bars

But, we’re in Florence


“Hey, how about Harry’s Bar across the river?” I asked

“Oh, hell yes” came the reply

A quick walk across the Ponte Sta. Trinita and west passing the baroque ain’t no joke Palazzo Corsini and onto Lungarno Amerigo Vespucci. The Vespucci were Florentines

We had to go

It’s on America’s namesake’s embankment on the river in the style of an American bar


We’re just wild about Harry

With the rain having cleared up, we sauntered north across the Holy Trinity Bridge, then west along the Arno until we reached the bar

Into the pink walled and pink tableclothed main room. Highly polished parquet floors. Dark wooden bar lined with every bottle imaginable. Well uniformed staff smiling as we entered

Buona Sera

Due, por favore

Ushered to a table to the right off the bar. Inside were the maitre d’, the bartender, one waiter, ourselves, and four patrons seated at the bar

Four patrons seated at the bar

Four patrons kind of all over the bar

Two men

Two women

Sort of draped all over the bar

Sort of draped all over each other

The men in bear hugs with adamant expressions in Italian of whatever it was they were saying with the certainty of the drunken

The women giggling their conspiracies

Then looking at the men and giggling some more

Then one of the men leaning back and almost falling of his barstool with sweeping gestures across the room and belting out “Ragazzi….” with no follow up

Then, “Andiamo!”

No one moved

The bartender came to hand us drink menus and said, “Buona sera. Come sta?”

We replied with our full Italian vocabulary, “Bene”

He then said, “I must apologize; they have been here since 12 hundred”

It was now 17:30

We knew we were in for a good show

Apertivo and acts

Bread and circuses

And what a show

Our “Ragazzi” exclaimer hugged the other man, hugged both women, went outside for a cigarette, came back in with a cigarette, ordered Gin and Tonics for his whole crew, ordered Tequila shots for his whole crew, patted one of the waiters on his face, patted one of the women on her bottom

At one point, he violated all decency by grabbing one woman’s chest and exclaiming “I miei meloni!”

Oh boy

She probably wanted to say, “Me tooi”

Even we knew what he meant

She slapped his hands away

Moments later, he shouted, “Andiamo!” again and made for the door

He laughed at his victim

She did not laugh at him

He kept shouting, “Andiamo!”

No one was leaving, especially him

Like the stage directions at the end of a famous absurdist play

The absurd and the sublime

Speaking of the sublime, being at Harrys – cousin of the famous Harry’s in Venice – my bride ordered a Bellini

I ordered a Manhattan

It being Italy, chips, peanuts, pistachios, olives, and two perfect bites of shrimp covered in a pink aioli accompanied the drinks

They were wonderful. Looked something like this:

We brought home the coaster

Would that we would serve such nibbles with drinks in our watering holes

So civil

So easy

So worth the price of the libations knowing food will always be involved

Other patrons began to trickle into the bar

Another couple who ordered “cocktail martinis” in Italian. Guess that would be versus the “breakfast martinis” or “coffee break martinis”

Two young ladies who ordered Bellinis themselves

The waiter came by and apologized again

“They are local. He comes here once a month. Tomorrow is Liberation Day, so no one is working”

Anniversario della Liberazione d’Italia, Anniversario della Resistenza, or 25 Aprile. Call it what you will, Ragazzi. Just a good day to get tore up from the floor up

As only the truly smashed say to one another:

“Te amo”

“Te amo”

“Te amo”

“No…no…no.. TE AMO!”

Drunk people in every language often tell their drinking buddies how much they love them



In vino veritas

No difference on the Vespucci Embankment than on Bourbon Street

Our drunkest pal, the most entertaining pal, who was indeed a happy drunk, who was indeed an assaulter, who was indeed obnoxious, who was indeed drunk, ordered another round of drinks

The bartender, maitre d’, and waiter all shook their heads

“No” said the bartender

“Si si si” said our drunken neighbor

“Mi dispiace” said the bartender. We knew enough to know that meant

I’m sorry

But he wasn’t

Our old sot then stumbled from his barstool and back outside

His friend, the man, followed

The women, looking horrified, also followed

We have all seen this part of the opera

Immediately, all four came back in with recrimination and finger pointing

I don’t know what was said, but I imagine, “Do you know who I am?” or “I’m in here all the time” or “You can’t do that to my friends” or “Y’all…I mean..come on”

He sat back down on a bar stool and it was clear he was not going to be upright for long


Because his pants had started to fall below acceptable limits

Even in Europe

Allora: looka here

Ragazzi…..crack is whack…even in Stan Smiths

That was the view over the potato chips

At least for a minute until our entertainer was asked to leave once and for all

“Scusi…” he said and then left

Only to burst back into the room seconds later

We’ve seen that scene in the opera, too. That last grasp. That quick run of the strings and double time timpani. With cymbals clanging

Mimi in the snow

Radames and Aida in the tomb

Violetta alone in her room

Calaf kissing Turandot

Porgy leaving for New York

This opera ended differently: three grown men blocking another grown man then showing him the door

Uscita ——>

The waiter came to our table to apologize, again

“No need,” I said, “This show is great”

We ordered another round of drinks. The Italian couple near us winked and smiled as the Florentine fool finally left the room

The bartender came to apologize, again, “We don’t usually have this type of behavior”

All the ragazzi were so apologetic

But, it’s not often tourists get a show for free

Drinks and drunks

Bread and circuses

With only one clown

3 thoughts on “Bread and Circuses

  1. Breakfast martini and coffee break martini makes me laugh. Maybe they should be a thing. Super article and appreciate the many literary references.

    Liked by 1 person

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