Notte Bianca Pt. 1

I should have posted this a week ago, but I’m just now getting around to writing about it.

Every year in Rome (at least, for the last 2 years), the city puts
together an event called “Notte Bianca,” or “White Night.”  The French started it with Paris in 2002.  It’s
pretty simple:  they close the city center to all traffic except
taxis, all the stores stay open until 3:00 am, and all the museums are
open until 6:00 am.  There are also dozens upon dozens of concerts
and events going on all over the city.   

We just happened to be in town for the 2004 edition, which was last Saturday night.

By 6:00 pm there was clearly
something in the air.  Even though it was Saturday, the streets
were not clearing out at all and the stores were staying open.  It
was like a solar eclipse… something strange going on.  By 8:30 the
sidewalks were choked with pedestrians.  Because our hotel was on
the edge of the city center, all the foot traffic was going one
way:  towards downtown.  Sara and I decided to walk around a
bit while Dad and Marie rested, so we jumped into the river of humanity
and started to walk.

Soon we wandered into Piazza Venezia,
a historic square right in the middle of Rome.  You might call it
the political heart of Rome, or one of the political centers at
least.  This is because it contains this gi-normous marble
monument called the “Altare Della Patria,”
or “Altar of the
Fatherland.”  As you might guess from the name, this 19th Century
tribute to King Vittorio Emmanuele II who unified Italy, is considered
by most Romans to be a jingoistic, nationalistic eyesore.  Amidst
all the monuments all around the city, which are dwarfed by this
monstrosity, it’s totally out of place, and to top it all off they had
to destroy several ancient and medieval sites to build it.  And as
if it weren’t rah-rah enough, while we were in town there was also a
huge Italian flag across the monument that had half fallen down. 
The flag was apparently displayed in response to an occupation of the
Altare in March 2003 perpetrated by Greenpeace activists in which they
hung a banner showing Berlusconi with a U.S. soldier’s helmet on. 

Cattycornered from this is the
Palazzo Venezia.  From a balcony of this palace,

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