Thursday, July 2, 2009


Everyone should have a best friend when they travel to a foreign land. Someone who has already unlocked all the local treasures: the great places to eat, how to ride the local transportation, all the short cuts and little secrets for bypassing the annoying tourists (which obviously you are not). Laura Weinstein is our friend in Rome. Though she is a professional guide extraordinaire, her style is more in the best friend mold. She recommended Massimo to us, which the savings alone came close to covering her guide fee. During our second full day in Rome we met her and had lunch in the old Jewish Ghetto. As we wandered the serpentine streets, she greeted old friends, one she admitted in a whisper to have once dated. She pointed out hidden ruins bypassed by most tour guides. Helped us recognize key streets and landmarks. During our time together, we gazed at one breathtaking Caravaggio after another (I loved her line that he was the first photo journalist because of his unflinching realism - imagine, the saints with dirty feet).

But, most of all, she quietly showed us how to explore Rome on our own. She taught us how to navigate between the great sites: Campo di Fiori, Piazza Navona, Piazza del Popolo, the Trevi Fountain, Spanish steps and much more. Most importantly, she showed us the best places to buy gelato and to find a clean bathroom.

I knew she was worth every dime when the Trincas all split up on our own one day and scurried off to different points of the compass. At the agreed upon time we all reappeared at the Pantheon just ahead of a thunderstorm of biblical proportions. If you have never weathered a storm -- lightening, hail, rain -- in the oldest building in the world, which by the way has a 13 meter hole in the center of its heavenly dome -- then you have not truly lived! We were Italian explorers in the line of Christopher Columbus and Marco Polo.

Laura can be found at She can also help you find Massimo.

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