Monday, June 25, 2007

When in Rome...

Get blitzed:

There is a struggle under way, in plain view, for the soul of Rome's historic center: In one corner sit the forces of restraint, etiquette and cultural preservation; in the other sit those with the unswerving desire for yet another round of drinks.

A leisurely midnight stroll on almost any summer night through Campo dei Fiori, Piazza Navona or the medieval neighborhood of Trastevere puts the issue in clear relief. It is "ladies night" at Sloppy Sam's, a popular pub on Campo dei Fiori just in front of the statue of the philosopher Giordano Bruno. Bruno was condemned to death in 1600 by the Roman Catholic Church for heresy. Shirtless male bartenders this night are serving up round after round of half-priced shots.

Around the corner, a stone's throw from where Julius Caesar met his treacherous end, the Zeta Lounge is offering two hours of "open bar" - all you can drink for one low price. ....

"There's been a change in the style of drinking," said Dermot O'Connell, who runs "The Almost Corner Bookstore" on Via del Moro, a main thoroughfare in Trastevere and a popular nocturnal destination because of its many bars. ....

"Why would you come to Rome to drink beer when you can do that anywhere else in the world? The value of Rome is its urban tissue," said Giuseppe Strappa, an architect and professor who has written extensively on the changing face of the city's historic center.

Strappa said the issue started to heat up more than a decade ago, when the city decided to transform the historic center, which he called the "best preserved" in the world, into an entertainment destination. That led many ancient palazzos to be gutted and turned into restaurants and bars. "If it continues like this for 10 years we will no longer have a historic center," he said.

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