After five years of studying classical Latin nearly a half century ago and five trips to Italy over the past twenty-five years, all I could come up with for an introduction to this article were these three questions:
And while youíre thinking about your answers to those questions let me remind you that this article was written primarily for Americans who are thinking about going to EDC 2014 in Rome in September, or perhaps even WDC 2015 in Milan next year, but who may not be familiar with either EDC, Rome or Milan. Hopefully this effort can help you make up your mind about going and aid you in your preparations for the event and trip. Trust me, if you do go youíll have a wonderful time!
This little essay is a mixture of information about the EDC of which I, if anyone can, claim to be The Godfather, Rome, one of my favorite cities, Milan, my own personal terra incognita, and the usual Peeriblah. Along with the text I encourage you to take the time to explore the links and do your own research using the internet and Google maps. Those maps are a gold mine of information and almost every place mentioned in this article can be located from the key map centered on Piazza Venezia.
I met my first Italian Diplomacy players back in the 1980s when I decided to run a postal tournament consisting of 49 players in seven games divided among seven teams. Most of the teams consisted of seven players from the same country, although a couple of teams had players from multiple countries. One of the teams was from Italy and one of the players on that team was Davide Cleopadre, who is still active in the Italian Diplomacy hobby (Think of him as an Edi Birsan with hair and an Italian accent.) Then, in 1989, the first WDC event was held in the UK and attracted players from all over the international hobby. Following that, in 1993, the French Diplomacy hobby hosted the first EDC event which attracted nearly 200 players from Europe and one lone American observer, me. In 2003 EDC was held in San Marino and won by a Frenchman. In 2008 it was held in Italy and won by an Italian. In 2013 it was again held in San Marino and again won by a Frenchman. This yearís EDC event will be the 22nd and will once again be held in Italy. Hmmmm.
Over the last ten years or so the Italian hobby has grown both quantitatively and qualitatively, and todayís Italian Dippers can play with the best of players from anywhere. Theyíve also gained a lot of experience in event preparation, hosting and tournament administration by participating in events in other countries, as well as hosting them at home. Every sign is that the EDC 2014 in Rome will be a world class event and, I suspect, a sneak preview of what the Italians are planning for WDC in 2015. And, knowing how the Romans and Milanese get along with each other, Iím sure the Milanese will go all out to out-perform the Romans next year.
One interesting thing Iíve noticed since I started researching this article was the significance of the hosting venue for this yearís EDC: the Italian Society for International Organization (ISIO), which was founded in 1944, even before the UN was founded. Today the ISIO has over 400 alumni who are members of the Italian foreign service. In addition, the ISIO is a major sponsor of the Model United Nations program in Italy (Old time Dippers in the United States will recall that Conrad Von Metzke, Rod Walker, and I all were active in MUN programs in the 1960s and 1970s).
With all the statistical information available now in the Diplomacy databases and event records (Too much information!) predicting winners (let alone losers) at cons and in tournaments isnít as much fun as it used to be. I did some number crunching for the 2014 North American DipCon in Seattle and the results, while interesting, were not conclusive. But, for what they are worth hereís my take on things. Fulvio De Persio was kind enough to help me out with some insights into the current Italian hobby in his companion piece, Italian Diplomacy Masters.
Over the years Iíve discovered there are three ways to top the rating charts:
Based on that and what information Iíve gleamed from the hobby media, it appears that the best ten national players from Italy are (with their point totals):
Another list from one of the databases includes a few non-Italians in its list suggesting either not many non-Italians make it to Italian events or those that do generally donít do well. This list includes: Luca Pazzaglia (78 points), Marco Ferrari (80 points), Giuseppe Salerno (74 points), Alex Lebedev (56 points), Daniele Belardinelli (51 points), Davide Cleopadre (58 points), Giovanni Cesarini (56 points), Francesco Conte (41 points), Luca Pardini (41 points), Leonardo Quirini (40 points), Matteo Anfoss (37 points), Gwen Maggi (45 points), Fulvio De Persio (36 points), Marco Noseda Pedraglio (32 points), Curzio Facoetti (23 points), Filippo Lonardo (21 points), Laurent Joly (23 points), Marcello Ciancio (25 points), Andrea Rosati (14 points), Emmanuel Du Pontavice (19 points)Oscar Terziotti (17 points), Stefano Chirico (16 points), Filippo Lucchini (15 points), Mirco Natili (15 points), and Frank Oosterom (15 points). Hmmmm… on second thought, disregard those point numbers in the second group. I have a feeling the listings are a high to low ranking, but the numbers donít mean much — but Iím too lazy to go back and delete all those numbers.
As is no secret, Iím no big fan of numerical rating systems (probably because I do so poorly in them). I find it a lot more fun to classify players by type categories and if you know a lot of these players you might enjoy trying to typecast them yourself. For instance are they are:
You find these groups in all national hobbies but unless youíve had a lot of experience with playing with foreign players you may not be able to identify them as quickly or as well as you could if they were Americans. New players of any nationality have the same problem, even with their own countrymen. However, that said, the problem becomes more acute when dealing with foreigners only because of the difference in personalities, body language, mental attitudes, but also things like different rules and customs for the games and events. The secrets to understanding foreign players are:
Rome is a world class city and ranks behind only London and Paris for international appeal in Europe to Americans. I can say that after visiting each of them at least five times in the past 25 years. No matter what your interests or tastes are, Rome has something for you; and this fall it offers something very special for a Dipper — a chance to participate in the VI Legatio in Urbe, aka EDC 2014. In fact the only thing limiting your visit is the size of your wallet (or the remaining balances on your credit cards) and the amount of time you have to spend in The Eternal City.
Rome is a city of history in a way few European cities (including London and Paris) are. Its churches, museums, monuments, and historical sites (and some places combine all four in one), piazzas, gelato, people watching, and sounds put you in the picture. Everywhere you go is a photo op site and a moment in history waiting to be captured. But donít worry; no matter how many of its sites you see in a day or a week or a month, youíll never see them all.
The second most asked question I get about traveling to a city like Rome is ďHow much is it going to cost?Ē Well, thatís up to you. If you live on a one star budget at home, you can probably come close to that in Rome. But if youíre used to a five star lifestyle you can also get that in Rome. Just donít expect to get a five star life style in Rome for a one star at home budget: it isnít going to happen. I know people who spend months or weeks trying to find the lowest airfares for international travel. I tell them itís usually a waste of their time for the few dollars theyíll save. My trip to Paris last fall cost me about USD 3600 for a weekís visit (a travel week to Europe usually involves two full days of travel, leaving you with five days actually in the destination city When you deduct the three days of a convention/tournament that leaves you two days to see the sites. I strongly urge you to spend a full week in your destination city which gives you three or four days to see it). Half of that was airfare. And that complete trip cost me about double what my last trip to Paris cost ten years ago. I would expect the same general pattern to apply to Rome.
Airfares now are running about USD 1500 from the west coast, and I expect that to go up by September. Housing is one area where you can cut your costs if youíre willing to accept a lower standard than youíll find at home. High end hotels (and beware of hotel rating systems, because the range of prices and what is offered in the various categories varies widely) are very expensive. Look for a good 2 star hotel. A two star hotel in Rome is not going to be to the same standard as a two star budget hotel in the USA, but it still is acceptable. Often youíll find them on the upper floors of a 3 or 4 star hotel but with a separate entrance off the alley or a side street. They wonít have a fancy lobby, a restaurant, an elevator, the latest electronics, etc. but theyíre usually clean, quiet, and safe. However, be sure to check the room BEFORE you accept it. Check the bed size ( Can you fit in it?), the shower size (Can you fit in it?), and the sound-proofing! Hostels arenít really an option in Rome, but many religious orders offer low cost rooms in schools, convents, etc. Just read the house rules carefully before you sign up. When they say they lock the door at 2100 they arenít kidding. Food doesnít have to be expensive in Rome and, frankly, it shouldnít be because the food in Rome isnít that great. Itís not a great culinary center like Florence or Bologna. You can eat well dining on pizza by the slice from stand up stands and gelato stands. I once tried to see how many days I could go on just eating pizza and gelato without duplications. I was doing fine until day six when I came up against my first Roman Chinese restaurant (Superb!) and, an hour later, I happened across the McDís at the Spanish Steps. Sigh. So, 26 different kinds of pizza and 21 different kinds of gelato is a record I donít think Iíll ever beat.
One thing that can fool you is entertainment. If you like opera, Rome isnít cheap, although there are ways to cut costs. Email me on that one. Museums like the Vatican are the most expensive in the world (USD 25 for the Vatican Museums currently, I believe); but there are a lot of museums that cost less, and some are even free. What you wonít find in Rome, or at least I havenít, are the small, out of the way, quirky museums devoted to a single artist, or other person of note. And, of course, the greatest of all entertainment in the world, people watching, is free. Two people traveling together should be able to cover housing, eats and basic entertainment for USD 300-350 a day. And do plan to splurge one night on a special dinner, etc. Just use your common sense. If you are old-fashioned and use film in your camera donít go to the Vatican Museums without a few spare rolls because one roll of cheap film in a Museum will cost you USD 15. A RT bus tour from Rome to Pompeii is time consuming, tiring, and expensive. It can easily take 16 hours or more, wear you out and cost anywhere from $100-$250 depending on whatís included. Instead take the local Roman train out to Ostia Antica (Look it up on Google and Wikipedia) where admission is $12 and includes access to the museum and a chance to watch the curators at work. I spent a fascinating half hour watching one restoration artist work on a single toe of a statue. She said it would take a week to do it properly, and she fully expected to spend ten years of her career restoring that ONE piece. I thought of her when I had my first and only pedicure to celebrate my 65th birthday last year. The nice thing is you can go early or late and during the week have the whole place to yourself. How highly do I think of this place? Itís the only excursion outside Rome I included.
They say the best museum in Rome is the city itself. I agree. To that I would add that the best tour guides are the ďrealĒ locals who know their own neighborhoods, and the professional guides who must know everything about everything. They arenít cheap but theyíre well worth the cost for a special tour or special access. The more specialized your interests, the better off you will be with a private guide or specialized tour. Otherwise, see my suggestions for further information below.
Hereís a list of places Iíve visited and enjoyed, most more than twice and any of which I would be happy to visit again:
I am standing on the observation level, 230 feet above the ground, of the Altare della Patria or Monumentalo Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II, also commonly known as Il Vittoriano, the ďkeyboardĒ (as in typewriter) among locals, and ďthe wedding cakeĒ among foreigners.Victor Emmanuel was the first king of a unified Italy. Located in Romeís center, the monument occupies a site between the Piazza Venezia and the Capitoline Hill. Construction on the controversial monument started in 1885 and was not completed until 1925, although the monument was inaugurated in 1911. A variety of architects and sculptors from all over Italy contributed to the eclectic structure. It is 442 wide and 230 feet high with a total area of about 175,000 square feet, or about 2.5 times the size of the Lincoln Memorial. The complex also houses the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the museum of Italian Unification, and a collection of flags and ensigns from disbanded military units. Visits to the monument increased dramatically after 2007 when a panoramic elevator was added to the rear of the structure, allowing visitors to ride up to the roof for 360 degree views of Rome, especially of The Forum.
Down the elevator, around the building, and a stroll down the Via di Fori Imperiali will bring you to the Roman Forum area. Bring comfortable walking shoes, a good map, bottled water, a wide-brimmed hat, and a camera with you. A tour group or guide can save you a lot of time spent in looking for things that arenít where you think they are.
A good example is the Miliarium Aureum or ďgolden milestoneĒ, a monument built by Caesar Augustus near the Temple of Saturn in the central forum. All roads were considered to begin from this monument and all distances in the Roman Empire were measured relative to that point. Thereís a lot of controversy about the exact location of the monument, what was carved on it, and whether the base that currently marks the spot is authentic. Still, itís a good spot for a photo op and a good place to officially launch your visit to EDC 2014.
The Forumís key sites cover about 5 acres and you could do it in in a half day but I suggest going early in the morning and/or late in the afternoon to avoid the hundreds (!!) of tourist buses and huge crowds. Plan your tour to avoid direct sun light, and use every bit of tree or ruin shade to stay out of the sun and heat. In addition, photos taken in the late morning or late afternoon are always better. If it happens to be Friday and you have time and a pre-purchased ticket, take one of the night time tours of the Forum. They are limited to 25 people, take about 70 minutes, and run from 2000 to 2300 or so. Instead of paying a fortune to some amateur actor in a fake gladiator suit in front of the Colosseum for a photo op, practice draping a toga and borrow a sheet from your hotel and get a picture of yourself in front of the Temple of Julius Caesar a la Romano! Just remember to take off your Nikes when you shoot the picture.
Do take a few minutes to at least visit and walk around the Colosseum and see the restoration work that is finally going on after years of delay. For more info on that check out this report:
The donorís $33 million donation to repair the Colosseum is more than the City of Rome spends on repairing and restoring all its treasures in a year. By way of comparison, San Diego, California my home city, is looking for $490 million to repair its twenty year old backlog of pot holes that need ďurgent ď repairs!
If time and the heat allow, you can easily walk back to the Victor Emanuele II Monument, which will put you right across the street from Piazza di San Marco 51, the site of EDC 2014. You could also take a bus and get dropped off at the Piazza Venezia, which is also nearby. As a rule of thumb, in the central part of Rome walking is best (but consult your map and learn how to navigate around the hills instead of over them), the metro/subway is an interesting underground city museum, and the buses are a pain, especially in busy hours.
I have always been interested in where Diplomacy events are held; and although I donít think they do it deliberately Iíve found that most convention and tournament hosts tend to pick sites that reflect their history, both as a country or city and as a hobby. Student housing in the UK, a majestic hotel (in its latest incarnation) in Paris, a castle in Belgium, an imperial stables in Vienna, a war zone in Korea and now a palezzetto in Rome. Hereís what Fulvio told me (with a bit of my own interpretation) about the site of EDC 2014. Look at the Google map to see where in Rome it is and how close it is to some of Romeís major sites.
You ask where do we play? It is called the ďPalezzetto Venezia,Ē which means a small palace built near the Palazzo Venezia, the place where Mussolini held power and ruled Italy from 1923 to 1943.
Younger people tend to forget that in those early days Mussolini was Hitlerís ďBig BrotherĒ and Hitler actually deferred to him. It wasnít until after the debacle in Ethiopia that Hitler realized it was time he became his ďownĒ man. However, Mussolini is still much with us. It was only in 2010 that workers discovered his ďmost secretĒ bunker underneath the Palezzetto Venezia, and certain members of the Milanese Diplomacy Mafia are already spreading rumors that the EDC 2014 Diplomacy games will be held in that bunker!
The building has an interesting history and served a variety of purposes depending on the ebb and flow of Italian history. You can read more on that on Yahoo or Wikipedia. It was originally built as a home/palace for the man who became Pope Paolo II and continued to live in it after his election. Later it passed to the Venezians, then the Austrians, the archeologists, etc. Over the centuries the building was damaged by earthquakes, fires, and remodelers who often did more damage than the fires, etc. Fortunately, the interior courtyard, a real treasure, remains mostly intact with its arches, orange trees and well by Antonio da Brescia.
So, if youíre going to EDC 2014 I suggest you take some time and explore the event site, the Victor Emanuel II Memorial and the Roman Forum. That may not get you any supply centers, but they will give you some memories for years to come.
and near the Imperial Forum and Colosseum in central Rome, in the headquarters of SIOI (Italian Society for International Organization):
Google searches on the address (text or map) will show you street or satellite maps and photos of the building.
A WORD ON WDC 2015 AND MILAN
Itís true, all roads do lead to Rome; but for some of us the road getting there is a bit longer, and for next yearís WDC in Milan getting to Milan wonít be quite so easy as getting to Rome. Europeans have multiple options for getting to a major city like Milan. They can use the major air carriers, the cheap air carriers, a variety of rail transport, or even drive. Those coming from North America or out of Europe are pretty much stuck with using some kind of major international carrier to fly into Milan, Rome or another nearby gateway and then a local airline or a train. Flying into Milan presents its own challenges since the city has two airports serving two different communities. Linate is the cityís major domestic airport. Malpensa is its primary international airport. The key difference is which airlines use which airport and, note carefully, that it is 5 miles from Milanís center to Linate and 25 miles from Malpensa to Milan center. Malpensa might look cheaper but when you consider time and related ground transport costs that might not be the case, especially for the solo traveler.
Iíve been to Italy multiple times and visited most of its major and secondary cities, including some of the ones most popular with tourists. Iíve spent from one to three weeks in cities like Rome, Florence, Sienna, San Gemingnano, Venice, San Marino, Ravenna, Lucca, Leche, La Spezia, Naples, Monte Casino, Palermo, Siracusa, etc. etc.
And then thereís Milan, Italyís second city. If you combine Washington DC and New York you have an idea of how important Rome is to Italy; which suggests you could compare Chicago with Milan; and in some ways you can. Milan is Italyís industrial and financial center (The Milanese proudly say they have one bank for every church in Rome.). Itís the countryís center for high tech and high fashion. And, of course, it has Da Vinciís The Last Supper. All appealing but none enough to make me visit. What finally got me to visit Milan was a chance to see a performance at La Scala, Milanís famous opera house. I collect opera houses the way some Americanís collect baseball parks or basketball arenas. In Italy Iíve seen many of the best: La Fenice (before and after the fire), Rome, Naples over the years but twenty-five years ago when a chance came to visit La Scala I grabbed it. I was in Venice at the time and I took the train to Milan, grabbed something to eat, changed into my suit in the restaurant rest room (much to the confusion of my waiter), rushed to the house, watched a long and to be honest not very good performance of Boris Godunov, and then rushed back to the train station for my return to Venice. Still, it was La Scala!
Iím not sure why EDC is in Rome in 2014 and WDC is in Milan in 2015, but knowing how the Romans and Milanese think Iím guessing they cut a deal that left San Marino in the dark ? So will I go to Milan for WDC? Well, it all depends on whatís playing at La Scala. If itís Verdi, Puccini or Rossini — you bet! But if its Wagner, Meyerbeer or Stravinsky — forget it!
It may seem strange to you as it does to me that Iíve spent a lot of time and words writing an article to encourage you to attend a Diplomacy event that I may not even attend. However, when youíve spent nearly fifty years in the hobby as I have, you will understand and, who knows, you may find yourself doing the same thing.
Go, enjoy, and tell the rest of us about your triumphs (check Wikipedia for the route the triumphs followed in Rome and the banquets).
Thereís a huge amount of material available on Diplomacy and the FTF and convention/tournament hobby in Europe and more than I expected to find about Italy, the EDC and, of course, the WDC. And, as you can well imagine thereís a huge amount of information available on line and in print or video about Rome. The Diplomacy Archive, back issues of zines like Diplomacy World and The Diplomatic Pouch, and the records found in the World Diplomacy Database, the Diplom.org, etc. are gold mines. For Rome I suggest looking at the five or six Rick Steve videos on Rome and Milan, which are excellent, Printed media is more difficult since much of it exists primarily to sell something to somebody, but the Eyewitness, Baedaker and Lonely Planet series are usually very good. Generally speaking, I am not impressed with sites like Trip Advisor, Expedia, Travelocity, etc. Youíll do much better to contract the event hosts and ask to be touch with a local hobbyist who shares your interests. Whether youíre looking for a good walking tour of The Roman Forum or the best place to buy Ferragamo Shoes in Milan cheap; theyíll help you.
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