Author Topic: The Hasidics Abroad - shlonx's travels through Italy  (Read 12354 times)

Offline shlonx

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Re: The Hasidics Abroad - shlonx's travels through Italy
« Reply #45 on: November 09, 2015, 10:08:12 AM »
FINAL PART:

We pulled into Termini station at 21:42, 18th of August.  Coming out into the cool Roman evening, we were surprised to see lots of homeless people strewn about the concourse in front the station. And this was before the current refugee crisis… We headed to the taxi rank, and stuffed ourselves into the first one. I gave him the address of the hotel, and it was déjà vu all over again; he had no clue where it was. And this time I even showed him the address, and told him the approximate location (I knew from my research that it was near Capitoline Hill), but I might have been talking to a stone wall (or ruin, for that matter).

He started the meter, left the station anyway, and then pulled over to a side to laboriously type the destination into an ancient Tomtom navigator. When I pointed out that the meter was still merrily running along, he flew into a rage, and began shouting and sputtering that I was being ridiculous and was very welcome to step out and hitch a ride with someone else, thank you very much. Afraid of causing him a heart attack, I shutted up, paid the extra euro when we arrived, and bade him a buona notte.

Now, about the hotel. Being new to DDF, I was richer in cash than points, so I looked for a relatively cheap, but nice, clean hotel. I found this hotel on Kayak, and booked it with agoda.com. It’s called Hotel Cosmopolita, and was a 12 minute walk to both the Ghetto and the Colosseum/Forums, the only two places we were planning on going to. Pictures looked decent, of course, and reviews weren’t the bestest, but sufficient for me. Another bonus was that every time we walked to or from the Ghetto, we passed by the Monument to the Fallen Soldier/Fatherland.

We waited 5 minutes for the porter to arrive, and presently a 50-year gentleman appeared – with no trolley!! I gulped, and pointed to our mound of suitcases piled on the cobblestones. He shrugged resignedly, and got to work, me guiltily entering the hotel to check in. The lobby was quite shabby, and there was only one lift in the entire hotel (which had about 7 floors…), and our porter walked faster than it rose. And it wasn’t right in the lobby, either. We were given directions to our room, and the receptionist got back to Candy Crush. After getting lost a bit in hallways lacking coherent signs, we found our room.

I slotted my card, we entered the room, and our faces fell to the ancient floor, which still had Arcadius Deranius Maximus Shmaximus’ footprints showing in the dust. I must preface my complaints by saying that we were coming from 4 nights in the Waldorf, then 10 in a nice apartment in Yerushalayim, another 6 in Canazei and 1 night in Venice, so we had gotten used to luxurious beds etcetera. First of all, the musty smell that enveloped us reminded me of my next-door neighbour’s mothball-filled basement closets… Next, the small size of the room left us with about four square inches of visible floorboards, once all of our suitcases had appeared. Finally, I pulled open the curtains adorning the windows, and was rewarded with an impressive view of grimy circa 1920’s brickwork rising before me. But was I to complain? We were in Rome, The Eternal City! Rome, with its palaces, piazzas, pizzas and pastas! Rome, with its monuments, museums, mosaics and music! Rome, with its artistry, archaeology, artichokes and aqueducts! Rome, with its fountains, frescos, Forums and fettuccine! With those thoughts in mind, I blissfully fell asleep. Shacharis was 7:45 after all, according to the wiki…



Hotel room




Awoke the next morning at seven, intending to walk to the Grand Synagogue for shacharis, eat breakfast, and then start our tour with Jewish Roma at 10:00. I chose them because of their great student discount - $110 cheaper! We descended to the lobby, and stopped short at the front doors, not believing our eyes: IT WAS POURING! Rumbles and flashes of lightning, and rivulets of water streaming through streets; I was thunderstruck! For weeks preceding our vacation, I had religiously checked the weather in Rome, each time reassured by a row of smiling suns, so we were totally unprepared. We had nary a coat; the only protection available was my wife’s rain bonnet and a tiny mini umbrella. And that is how we left the hotel, heading to the main street to catch a taxi. 



Rain in Rome



We flagged one down, and apologetically dripped all over the plush seats. He dropped us off at the Synagogue, and we hurried toward the tall open doors, only to find that the gates were locked. Someone cruised out through the doors, and motioned to us to go round the building. We scurried helter-skelter – it was really bucketing – and found sanctuary in the shul. The bored security guard checked our bags and buzzed us in. The oilam was up to shmoneh esrei, and it was quite embarrassing, entering from Mizrach. The only approach to the weekday ezras noshim was through the men’s section, by the way.

Anyway I found a place to sit, and got down to business. I had trouble formulating the words though, since the sheer awesomeness and grandeur of that shul took my breath away  ;). The davening in itself was quite interesting: The chazzan wore a black canonical robe over his casual clothes, and a stiff black hat atop his head. The shamash, identified by the silver shofar-shaped plaque hanging off his neck with “שמש” inscribed onto it, prowled around looking for prey. When I dared sit down during chazaras hashatz, a flapping hand immediately appeared near my face, urging me to rise. Unfortunately, the same vigilance wasn’t applied to some knots of men schmoozing during davening, but – to sit during chazaras hashatz?? How could you?!?! Also, when I first entered, I heard a wondrous sound echoing off the huge walls, and thought that the acoustics were amazing and the baal tefilla a retired tenor from The Teatro dell'Opera di Roma. But no - a microphone did the trick.



Chazan



I noticed a man splaying his fingers and laying his hands on some chevra surrounding him during birkas kohanim – must’ve been a kohen. Also, everyone knows that Italians are renowned for adding an extra syllable to the end of each word – Yesseh, noweh, butteh, “Nowadays itter coster moneyer to go intoower the ampitheatereh” - a tour guide I overheard in Verona, honestly. Butte I was surprised and amused to hear the Italian Jews use this accent for davening as well! Pote’ach et yadecha umasbia lechol chai ratzoneh… vechosid bechol ma’asoveh, Kadosheh Kadosheh Kadosheh – it was quite funny.

Shacharis ended, and the rain-jacketed men filed out of the shul, leaving us and another few ill-equipped worshippers cowering in the doorway, waiting for the rain to stop. We were there for about 10 minutes, when suddenly, a most welcoming sight: A peddler appeared, selling umbrellas for €5! Now with some sort of protection, we headed to the restaurant, our stomachs rumbling.

We hadn’t had a normal meal since the bird fiasco in Venice the day before, and were looking forward to Ba’Ghetto’s delicious food, after seeing all the raving reviews on DDF. Turning the corner, we were struck by a dreadful sight– it was shuttered up. Locked. Bolted. Inaccessible. Closed! A smoking worker from the store next door informed us that it would open at 11:00…. Plan B: We sloshed our way to Yotevata – closed. Sealed. Shut. As impenetrable as its namesake was in 67 CE. Boy, we sure were more frustrated than Vespasian had been back then.

We miserably waded through the barren streets back to the hotel, and dug up some snacks and nosh we had bought in Osher Ad a fortnight earlier. I texted our contact, Giorgia Campiningi, to ask if the tour was still on. She replied that she was in Tel Aviv, and what thunderstorm was I talking about? I asked if she had anything scheduled later in the afternoon, or the next morning, but there was nothing. She gave me our tour guide’s number, and I disbelievingly received a positive reply from her regarding the tour taking place. I changed my wet socks and trousers, and waterproofed my trainers by putting one foot into a plastic shopping bag, and the other into the wrapper of a 36-pack of צ'יטוס. Unfortunately, my wife couldn’t do the same, for cosmetic reasons….

We went back out into the stormy weather, and tried hailing a taxi. We tried for 10 minutes, and were getting desperate since it was already 10:00, and I didn’t want to keep the tour waiting. Finally a cab pulled up and we hopped in. He took off, and a minute later – I still don’t understand why – slammed into the back of a Mercedes Benz van parked in the middle of the street. I saw the van, I noticed it was idling and not moving, but for some reason our driver did not –WHAM! Our driver jumped out to inspect the damage along with the crashee; they were surprisingly civil. After a few minutes, he returned to the car and told us we’d have to find another cab, waiving our tab. We entered another one, arrived at the Jewish Museum, located in the basement of the Great Synagogue, and ran inside to meet our group. 

Our tour guide was Laura Sonnino, a local who was knowledgeable, funny, and very accommodating. There were two couples from upstate NY (irreligious) who were on a Mediterranean cruise, and 2 Chabad guys from Australia who were finishing up their country-wide trip. We began in the shul upstairs, taking seats while Laura spoke. Her accent was a pleasure to listen to, and it was accompanied by the rumbles of thunder rolling through the cavernous hall.  She told us the history of the Jews in Italy, and gave us a lengthy account of the shul.

Built in 1904, sometime after the emancipation of the Ghetto in 1874, it was built as a magnificent monument testifying their gratitude to the new Italian government, and partly financed by Jews from abroad. In exchange for its construction, the community had to relinquish its 5 old shuls, all located in one building. It is the only building in Rome to have a square dome, if that interests you. We were given time to snap some pictures, and she gladly offered to take some of us. Also pointed out were remnants of the wax seal the Nazis ימ"ש had stamped on the front doors after shutting it down, and a plaque honouring the first American Jewish soldier to enter the shul after its liberation in 1944.
















Regarding the nusach, I browsed through a local siddur and found some interesting observations (see pictures below):
•   They say לעילא ולעילא in kaddish year round, not just Aseres Yemei Teshuva
•   They have an additional bracha in the birkas hashachar
•   The first bracha of Maariv on Friday night is different than the weekdays
•   There is a special Mi Sheberach added on Shabbos morning after leining













We went back down and re-entered the museum; one of the most fascinating ones I have ever visited! They have relics from the old synagogues, centuries-old silver items and around 900 pieces of textile: Paroches’, me’ilim for sifrei torah, bimah covers, including one paroches dating back to the 14th century! They were usually woven with gold and silver threads by the women and girls of the quarter, and came in matching sets. One of them was created out of the upholstery in the carriage belonging to Queen Christina of Denmark, after it was sold. The donated sets often included the family’s coat of arms, and one sefer torah crown has roosters adorning the top, since that was the donor’s emblem… There is also a Holocaust section, with pertaining memorabilia, and a display regarding the horrific 1984 terrorist attack. A very remarkable museum; shame no pictures were allowed, though I managed to sneak a few…

Upon leaving the museum, we stepped into a sunny, cheery Rome – blue skies above, people bustling below – it was a complete transformation. While we had been indoors, the rain stopped and the heavens had cleared, putting us all into a good mood and sweetening the tour experience. We followed Laura around the Ghetto as she pointed out interesting sights, and after a very enjoyable and informative 3 hours, we finished the tour and walked to Ba’Ghetto for brunch.



Centuries-old Paroches



Note the royal emblems



Note the rooster



Transformation of the sky



Stolpersteins

It was already open and busy, and we took seats inside, as it had become quite warm outside. Ravenous by now, we ordered ravioli, fettuccine, a salad, and mozzarella sticks. They charge for the big bottle of cold water they bring you, by the way. I loved the fettuccine, but didn’t think anything else was epes major. The mozzarella sticks were especially disappointing; I had imagined crusty sticks, possibly with a salsa sauce on the side, and instead we were served mammoth globs of melted cheese. We enjoyed our time there, though, and decided to hop over to the gelato place for dessert after seeing Ba’Ghetto’s price list  :). I have no words for the gelatos- they were sooo tasty and refreshing, and came in such generous portions! We took them to the Tiber River where we watched brown water rush by us as we slowly licked our cups clean, and then headed back to shul for Mincha/Maariv.



Ba’Ghetto meaty









Ba’Ghetto



Gelato place



Pons Fabricio, the oldest Roman bridge in Rome

Mincha was followed by selichos for half an hour, and then came Maariv. Supper was in Ba’Ghetto again, and this time we ordered a pizza margherita and salmon. The pizza was one of the tastiest I ever had, and we got a free coke after waiting close to an hour for the fish to arrive. We walked back to the hotel, stopping by the monument for more pictures. Went to bed straight away, for we were flying home the next day…



Monument by day





Monument at night


The next morning, we checked out, left our bags with the reception, and walked to Shacharis. It was a Thursday, so I got to see and hear the קריאת התורה, which was quite interesting. People who get aliyos are handed little silver disks engraved with their respective aliyah beforehand, and the gartel wrapped around the sefer torah is passed to the ezras noshim where all the women reverently kiss it. We had gelatos and some snacks for breakfast, and then headed toward the Colosseum, equipped with our Rick Stevens audio guides. After reading and seeing so much about it, it was great to finally see it materialize before our eye. The multitudes of people there were staggering, and we joined the end of the line, ignoring all the people who were hawking tours and express waiting time. But as the line trickled along, and the clock ticked along, we realized that if we wanted to get back to Ba’Ghetto for lunch and make our flight on time, we would have to speed things up a bit.

So we joined an English tour group, about 60 people strong, paying an additional €13 in addition to the €12 entrance fee. It was worthwhile for us, for we were inside after 15 minutes. It definitely looks much nicer on the outside… Our tour guide was quite good, and it was quite awkward when he said “The Colosseum was built with the spoils Titus had bought back from Judea…”, and everyone snuck stares at us. We really didn’t have much time, so we just took in the sights of the amphitheatre with tourists swarming over it like ants and after 10 minutes, snuck away from the group and left to the Forums.

We didn’t have to wait to enter, since our tour tickets included entrance to the Forums too, so we entered quickly and took solemn pictures under the Arch of Titus ימ"ש. After getting a bit lost while looking for the exit, we completed our whirlwind visit to the Hill. I’m not saying I wouldn’t have minded a nice relaxing tour, but I didn’t feel that I missed out.












Our tour guide


We rushed back to Ba’Ghetto for lunch (don’t remember what we ordered), had some more gelato, returned to the hotel, took a cab to the airport, and then our British Airways saga began…

In short, our route was FCO-LHR-JFK, with a one hour stop in Heathrow. When arriving at Rome’s Fiumicino airport for our 17:20 flight, we were informed that there would be a 20 minute delay, thereby causing us to miss our flight to Kennedy. The only other option we were given was to fly to London anyway, and then take the first flight to New York the next day – arriving late Friday morning. We were assured that we would be provided with kosher meals, both in the hotel they would be putting us up in, and on our fight to JFK. I quickly let my sister in London know about the situation, and we took off.

When we landed in London, we were given our hotel and transportation voucher for the Park Inn Hotel, and reassurances regarding the kosher food. After some haranguing, I also received a 10 voucher to spend in one of the airport stores for refreshments. Excepting a 1-star inn, we were quite surprised when we arrived at the hotel. It was, to quote Donald J. Trump, “Yyyuuuuge” – there must’ve been a thousand rooms in that place. And the room was very comfortable, and might I say a tad bigger than the one in Canazei?  But there was no kosher food there for us. Thankfully, my sister and brother in law altruistically made the hour-long trip to the hotel, bringing us hot supper and sandwiches and snacks for the next day. We were really grateful for that, since as expected, on the flight to Kennedy the next morning, we were informed that there were no kosher meals onboard, as they had been ordered too late. אשר פיהם דיבר שוא וימינם ימין שקר..... We would have starved if not for the sandwiches! I haven’t yet formally complained to BA, but should I? Will I get something for it?







Hotel room in London




Before the TR is relegated to page 76 of this thread, I’d like to thank all of you for helping out with preparing for the trip, reading this, and feedbacking. Kudos to Dan for providing such a great medium, where people could come and help one another.


Arrivedercci!!
Brevity may be the soul of wit, but floridity is its spirit.

Offline ChAiM'l

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Re: The Hasidics Abroad - shlonx's travels through Italy
« Reply #46 on: November 09, 2015, 10:55:12 AM »
Great finale to a fascinating TR. Bravissimo!

Offline Zevi16

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Re: The Hasidics Abroad - shlonx's travels through Italy
« Reply #47 on: November 09, 2015, 11:26:10 AM »
Unbelievableh

Offline @Yehuda

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Re: The Hasidics Abroad - shlonx's travels through Italy
« Reply #48 on: November 09, 2015, 11:51:16 AM »
Another great installment! Thanks for taking the time to write it up, boy do you focus a lot of attention on your writing style. Much appreciated!

I didn't understand how, on your first day, you went straight from lunch to Mincha. When we went in the summer, Mincha wasn't until after 8PM!
We also got lost in the forums trying to find an exit. Good to know it's actually not so simple - makes me feel better. ;D

Offline Emkay

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Re: The Hasidics Abroad - shlonx's travels through Italy
« Reply #49 on: November 09, 2015, 12:24:11 PM »
extremely entertaining to read, Thanks!

Offline 3yummyboys

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Re: The Hasidics Abroad - shlonx's travels through Italy
« Reply #50 on: November 09, 2015, 12:27:42 PM »
Great TR! I really enjoyed it.

Can't hurt to complain to BA, especially because you would have been starving had it not been for your sister.

Offline solls108

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Re: The Hasidics Abroad - shlonx's travels through Italy
« Reply #51 on: November 09, 2015, 02:40:03 PM »
Great TR! Thanks for sharing!

Offline JoshNY

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Re: The Hasidics Abroad - shlonx's travels through Italy
« Reply #52 on: November 10, 2015, 09:50:29 AM »
Fantastic trip report - really enjoyed both the writing style and the content! Nice details about the davening in Rome.

Thanks!

Offline shlonx

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Re: The Hasidics Abroad - shlonx's travels through Italy
« Reply #53 on: November 16, 2015, 09:51:33 AM »
Great finale to a fascinating TR. Bravissimo!
Unbelievableh
extremely entertaining to read, Thanks!
Great TR! I really enjoyed it.
Great TR! Thanks for sharing!
Fantastic trip report - really enjoyed both the writing style and the content! Nice details about the davening in Rome.

Thanks!

Thank you, thank you...

Another great installment! Thanks for taking the time to write it up, boy do you focus a lot of attention on your writing style. Much appreciated!

I didn't understand how, on your first day, you went straight from lunch to Mincha. When we went in the summer, Mincha wasn't until after 8PM!
We also got lost in the forums trying to find an exit. Good to know it's actually not so simple - makes me feel better. ;D

You're right! I reviewed my pictures from that day, and it seems we returned to the hotel after lunch to take a nap for a bit... My report was based on memory and the chronology of my images, so I somehow skipped that part as I didn't take pictures of myself resting...  :)

By the way, the title and style of my trip report is an attempted parody of Mark Twain's travel books, The Innocents Abroad and A Tramp Abroad...
Brevity may be the soul of wit, but floridity is its spirit.

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Re: The Hasidics Abroad - shlonx's travels through Italy
« Reply #54 on: November 16, 2015, 01:38:05 PM »
Thanks for finishing the TR! It was an enjoyable read.

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Re: The Hasidics Abroad - shlonx's travels through Italy
« Reply #55 on: November 17, 2015, 10:21:27 AM »
"I noticed a man splaying his fingers and laying his hands on some chevra surrounding him during birkas kohanim – must’ve been a kohen. "

there's a guy in my shul (who is nusach Roma) does it with his kids and he's not a Kohen.

Great TR, Grazie

Offline Something Fishy

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Re: The Hasidics Abroad - shlonx's travels through Italy
« Reply #56 on: December 17, 2015, 06:36:23 PM »
How did I miss this TR :o :o :o?

Absolutely wonderful!

Great writing, incredible pictures, and you kept me laughing throughout. Well done!
Check out my site for epic kosher adventures: Kosher Horizons

Offline VacationLover

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Re: The Hasidics Abroad - shlonx's travels through Italy
« Reply #57 on: May 04, 2016, 11:24:17 AM »
Hi shlonx, Thanks for your informative TR, I am planing to go to this hotel this summer

The next day we joined my brother and his family, who were also in the hotel, for a family trip to a nearby mountain with alpine coasters and playgrounds. We cable-carred up into a cloud, and discovered that the rides were temporarily closed, due to the inclement weather. We waited for the mists to dissipate somewhat, then had some fun. I don’t recall much of that day, as my memories of it are quite hazy  ;)


You probably went here http://www.latemar.it/en/summer/alpine-coaster-gardone-summer - the only Alpine slide in the area. Now that I have reminded you about that day can you recall if it is worth paying a visit to Latemar?

Offline Daniel

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Re: The Hasidics Abroad - shlonx's travels through Italy
« Reply #58 on: April 30, 2019, 02:39:09 PM »
Is there any kosher food in the Dolomites besides for My Kosher hotel? Is it possible to buy food in Venice to bring along to a non-kosher hotel in the Dolomites ?

Offline zow

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Re: The Hasidics Abroad - shlonx's travels through Italy
« Reply #59 on: May 02, 2019, 01:06:42 PM »
Is there any kosher food in the Dolomites besides for My Kosher hotel? Is it possible to buy food in Venice to bring along to a non-kosher hotel in the Dolomites ?
Paging @yehudaa. Weren’t you just there?