Tuesday, August 15, 2006

ANCONA (part II): Skip the first floor, begin on the second, proceed to the third and end on the first

CONSCIOUS OF MY FELLOW travelers low tolerance for museums and recognizing the potential for an aggressive backlash, I decide to make a solitary trip to Ancona to visit the Archeology Museum.

After being highly disappointed by the amphitheater ruins which are overgrown with weeds and fenced off from the public, I hope to find some English explanations of the random rock formations around the city’s historic section. I want to know why they deserve to be preserved behind metal barriers.

I pay 2 euros to enter (it’s 4 euro if you’re over 25) the museum and I receive directions to guide me through. In broken English, a museum employee explains that I must skip the first floor and begin on the second floor, proceed to the third floor, and end on the first floor.

Before letting me go, he asks if I understand and then repeats the directions until he accepts my nodding head.

As I begin to navigate my tour, it becomes clear that the museum’s exhibition rooms are as confusing as the museum’s layout.

With no real direction I wander through 90-degree rooms with creaky floors, searching for something to spark my interest.

Most of the artifacts are from the Paleolithic period to the Middle Ages and they all look the same to me. My ignorance is magnified by the fact that only Italian explanations accompany the pieces.

I begin to feel like a maze-trapped rat searching for cheese when I realize I have to go to the bathroom. Semi-enjoyable aimless wandering is replaced by a desperate race to escape.

Rooms have multiple doorways. Strategically placed fire extinguishers or ropes block possible exits. Promising outlets turn out to be dead ends in little hot rooms.

My pending claustrophobia and failure to find a bathroom are making me miserable but I feel obligated to continue. If I start towards an exit, a random museum employee pops up to guide me back to the exhibit.

“Grazie,” I say smiling sheepishly, pretending that I am merely disoriented, not undertaking a master breakout scheme.

I pause in front of some jewelry to feign some interest. These people devote their lives to these old rocks and artifacts; I can’t be a completely ignorant American.

I am flooded with relief when I reach the main stairwell, relief that I am free at last and relief that I didn’t force my friends to join me.

Now if I could only find the bathroom!

- Philly Petronis


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