Rossi of Rome University had invitednme, along with Chris KopfF, to deliverna paper on classics. I’m not used tondiscussing Greek lyric meters in Italiannand managed to begin with a howlingnmispronunciation, but we all survivednand went out to dinner with mynfriends. Professor Rossi treated us tonone of the best dinners I’ve had innItaly. (How can one ever repay thenkindness displayed by Europeannfriends. Even if they were to come tonAmerica, where could one take them?)nLike so many good restaurants in Italy,nthis was very unquaint and looked thensort of place where prosperous Chicagonbusinessmen have lunch.nI did manage to find time to visit anfew churches. St. John Lateran isnsomething of a mess, with the omnipresentnsigns of restoration, but SantanMaria Maggiore is still the most harmoniousnhodgepodge of styles in thenworld. A walk around the basilica is anfast-forward tour of a thousand years ofnarchitectural development. As a recordnof Europe, “Mary Major” is like anphoto-spread on the life story of annembryo, but in the unfortunate case ofnour civilization, the baby is stillborn.nMy friend and I catch a bus down tonthe Colosseum, and going in we looknfor a place to sit in the shade. Inevitablynthe talk turns to why and how thenmistress of the worfd fell into hernnonage. I have always suspected thatnRome suflFered the natural fate of allnunitary political systems — empires orndemocracies. Left unchecked, a governingnclass will always increase its ownnpower, and not simply out of greed andnambition for power. Problems cry outnfor solutions, and it is the rare rulernwho is wise enough to ignore mostnproblems: scire omnia, non omnianpersequi was Tacitus’ definition of politicalnwisdom, although he meant itnonly to apply to personal matters. AsnMadison and Calhoun understood, thenonly check upon the growth of powernis another power.nIn our own system, it was the statesnand the little communities that used tonprotect us from the national government.nIn Rome, it was the conflictsnbetween Senate and Populus, betweennRome and the hinterlands, betweennaristocrats and business interests thatnpreserved liberty and what is evennmore precious than liberty, the politicalnvitality of the nation. The empire.n42/CHRONICLESnwhen wisely administered, did its bestnto settle those conflicts, and as’ thenpower of the imperial bureaucracy increased,ncivic virtue (by which I meannthe guts needed to take part in publicnlife) declined. The more fires the governmentnputs out, the more we arensmothered in the smoke. On thenwhole, I think, under republic andnunder empire, the Romans did a betternjob than we have done, and it took farnlonger for them to lose their nerve.nRome was uncharacteristically chillynfor May. It was also full of Europeannteenagers on holiday, and we wereneager to leave. Driving out of thenmiddle of Rome, even after beingnplagued by gypsies and Moroccans innthe train station where we rented thencar, and even after getting lost severalntimes before striking the high road tonNaples, was less terrifying than we hadnanticipated. We left the autostrada atnAnagni for a late lunch at an out-ofthe-waynhotel we stumbled upon: anpasta with a sauce made of fresh artichokes,ngrilled lamb, and small yellownpotatoes served with butter and parsley.nBut” this simple meal proved to benour last bit of luck that day. It wasnalready late afternoon when I took usnaround the lovely old town and almostnwedged the car in a steep 13th-centurynalley. I have almost no depth perceptionnand cannot back up a car for tennfeet, much less down a twisting streetnabout seven-feet wide. Making nonprogress on the back roads, we returnednto the autostrada only to be hitnwith mile after mile of construction.nWe were headed for Avellino, becausenwe had read of the great winerynin the neighborhood. I for one willnnever drink it, because my taste ofnAvellino consisted of a rush-hour trafficnjam in the center of town as wenfruitlessly attempted to find a quietnhotel. (I stupidly rejected a place in ansuburb perched on a hill overlookingnthe town. Too modern.) The real horrorndid not begin until after dark, whennwe realized that we had come unintentionallyninto Salerno, which we rodenaround and around looking for annhotel with a garage.nAs our ill luck would have it, wenfound the Hotel Garibaldi near thenmarina. Visitors to the Bay of Naplesnalways sing the same song: foul air,ndirty bathrooms, unchanged bednlinens. Our room had the particularnnndistinction of facing the enclosedncourtyard, which smelled like a lockernroom in Herculaneum, sealed undernmud and ash for 1900 years and excavatednfor our benefit. The place didnhave its charms, though: an ancientnsoft drink cooler with small coke bottlesntwo-thirds filled. There were severalnempty beer bottles decorating thenroom, and in one of them was a bunchnof faded flowers. Our hostess offerednthem to us with the gracious smile of angreat lady bestowing a favor. I did notnhave the heart to refuse. Our hotel,nwhich only occupied two floors, wasnquiet enough, but the upper floors ofnthe building were more lively. What annodd couple, one of the ladies remarked,nseeing an older man riding upnthe elevator with a teenage giri in hotnpants.nI’ll break ofF the slide-show here andnsay that Paestum is still as magnificentnas Shelley said it was, although you cannno longer see through the columns ofnPoseidon’s temple. My ankle gave outnhalf way through Pompeii (I knew myninjury would come in handy), andnleaving my wife to wander the ruins, Inwent back to the Hotel Santuario withnmy friends. The hotel, as well as beingnquiet and rather pleasant, is a marvel ofncleanliness and efficiency. It was fourno’clock, and we had not had lunch, butnthe assistant manager was kind enoughnto prepare us pannini with prosciuttonand cheese and several bottles of ansomewhat fizzy but drinkable wine.nWe went to mass in the church acrossnthe piazza, where a young nun sangnpopular-sounding hymns with a passionatenintensity that was almost alarming.nMy friend and I sat outside thenhotel, watching la vita in piazza untilnmy cigar caused a minor row with ancrowd of young people who affected toncough and wheeze. (I did the samenwhen they lit up cigarettes.)nWe spent a week in Umbria andnTuscany. Orvieto, Cortona, Chiusi (almostnall the Etruscan sites are impossiblento visit, but the Etruscan museumnis good and the market better). Assisi isnthe worst kind of tourist trap, partnDisney World part YMCA camp. (Tonbe fair, I should say that an Italiannfriend visited Assisi a few weeks laternand fell in love with the place.) I didnnot even want to eat there, and we hadnan unsatisfactory lunch at a marina onnLake Trasimene. No sign of Hannibal,n