Writing: in my hotel room in Hotel Nasco, 12:11am, about an hour after the concert.
Before I go on, here are the pictures taken with Anna’s camera, with herself, Renato and I. Again it was a pleasure to meet such nice and kind people.
My train from Rome to Milano was scheduled to depart at 10:15am. As I tucked myself in last night, I had thoughts about postponing the train so I can leave a few hours later—train connections from Rome to Milano (and vice versa) are frequent during the day; however, money for the reservation has already been paid and I had no intention to open another can of worms. While risk is minimal, there are times during this trip that I have absolutely no inclination to take on any sort of risk.
Woke up at 8:00am and headed downstairs for breakfast. Before that, I asked the hotel’s receptionist about my route to the central station; the only thing she could suggest to me was a taxi. The most expensive alternative, plus—according to her—nobody could really tell me when the taxi should make it to Roma Termini as morning traffic in Rome is hell on earth.
That’s very good news to get less than two hours before your departure time, when the walking distance to the train station is just over an hour in the blazing hot sun—and you hadn’t even had breakfast yet. Entered the breakfast room, threw some random cold cuts and cheese on my plate and chewed while thinking.
Decided to walk to Flaminio station and from there take the subway. That’s 20 minutes walk plus 7 minutes on the subway. Sounds trivial, huh? You don’t need to be an expert in Rome’s public transport system to come up with this news‐breaker. Decided to not take much chances though, so I compressed my breakfast experience to about five minutes, went upstairs to grab my stuff and back downstairs for a checkout.
– “I decided to walk to Flaminio and from there take the subway”, I said.
– “… Oh…”
That’s odd, I think. It’s a popular 4‐star hotel and my destination wasn’t some obscure location in a suburb of Rome—it was the damn main train station. You would expect the hotel’s staff to know transport links a bit better than a tourist that has been in Rome for less than 24 hours.
Having said that, I should mention that after hearing “Difronte A…”’s worker telling me that the cook hasn’t arrived to work yet and nobody knows when food will be available for serving, I’m pretty much in the stage where nothing can surprise me anymore. The goal of preparation and planning is not to guarantee anything—rather, it is to minimize risk. Shit hits the fan from various angles, so instead of playing it smart and mumble “I didn’t see that coming” when it happens, might as well just accept the fact that you are going to get hit by crap and work on your mental power to withstand that.
Walked to Flaminio station and it felt like the sun was angry that morning. I mean come on, sun. Just throw fireballs at us humanoids and get it over with. At least now I know what being roasted feels like; it is not pleasant.
Arrived at Roma Termini half an hour before the train’s departure time; job well done. Passed the time doing nothing except gazing at the departure board until the platform number announcement, boarded the train and embarked on a three and a half hours voyage to Milano.
Milano (English: Milan; Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milan) is the capital of a region named Lombardy in Italy. Its urban area is the largest in Italy and is home for about 7.5 million people.
While Roma is so rich in history, and has had tremendous influence on civilization ever since it was established some 2,500 years ago, Milano is still the largest city in Italy and is also the economic and business centre of the country. Transportation‐wise, Milano is of the most important transportation hubs in Europe.
One thing Milano is particularly known for is its fashion industry, considered to be a “fashion capital” alongside with NYC, Paris and London. Money‐sucking organizations such as Gucci, Versace, Prada and Armani are headquartered here. Nightlife‐wise, the scene here is just as vibrant as it can get in Italy—and perhaps in the world; people come to party here from all over.
My hotel, Hotel Nasco, is located about one kilometre away from the venue however getting to it from the main train station was a bit tricky. Sure I could walk the 4–5 kilometres stretch but that would later translate to thousands of dollars paid to psychiatrists in futile attempts to regain my sanity as the weather there was not pleasant at all. Instead, I decided to email my Personal Assistant #1, Daria, and asked (or, should I say, instructed her) to provide me with the best route to the hotel.
Well, apparently Daria gives instructions in the very same manner that she packs for a trip. WAY too much information. I considered hiring a secretary just to read those long three emails I got full of instructions—often contradictory, always misleading. At first I considered maybe I should walk to the hotel after all—at least, I have three long emails to read while being baked walking in Milano’s sun. If one’s going to die under the blazing sun, might as well die while deciphering convoluted instructions.
Ended up taking the subway to Cadorna FS and then the regional train to Milano Nord Domodossola, about 500m from the hotel. Total travel time was about 25 minutes and I was happy to step into air‐conditioned space.
It was about 3:00pm so I thought how I should pass the time before the concert. One option was to travel to the city centre and explore; the other option was to sleep. I decided to minimize risk again—I was a bit tired and who knows how my night sleep was going to be—and opted at sleeping. Refreshing shower and I headed to bed for a massive three and a half hours nap—waking up at 7:00pm, which was the door opening time at the venue (concert scheduled to start at 9:00pm).
I will explore Milano some other time.
Fresh, alert and happy, I left the hotel and started walking towards the venue. Time’s on my hand and food’s not in my stomach; I didn’t know whether there are any restaurants near the venue, which appeared to be in some sort of a park; so I opted at the first dining option I encountered—a restaurant offering a very interesting menu, mainly around seafood and pizza. Very quick service and I got the best pizza I had in Italy so far—except, of course, for the pizza I had in Trento with Daria which still is a question mark (I couldn’t really taste or smell much at the time of chewing on that pizza; perhaps I should revisit Trento for another attempt at that restaurant).
Dessert came in the shape of a nugget‐flavoured ice‐cream, topped with whipped cream and accompanied by a few mushroom‐shaped chocolate buttons infused with something that I’m sure had alcohol in it. It tasted as brilliantly as it sounds.
As it was the first time I’m actually reading a restaurant bill in Italy, I noticed an unrecognized charge. I couldn’t recall ever ordering, let alone eating, a dish called “Coperto” so I asked the waiter what it’s all about.
So there’s another travel information tip for you: “Il Coperto” is actually a cover charge. The government of Italy allowed restaurants to charge this amount—usually a couple of Euros or so—some time ago and of course all restaurants jumped on the opportunity. It is, however, up to the restaurant to decide whether to bill the Coperto individually (as a separate item) or to factor it into the price of the menu items (so you never actually see that charge in your bill).
Either way, whether you see that charge on your bill or not, you are charged a cover charge—the only question is whether the price is factored into the price of your order or not. Don’t feel ripped‐off about it; menus should include a notice whether the prices include the Coperto or not.
Very good meal and I proceeded to the venue—Arena Civica.
Corso Sempione (Wikipedia—Italian only: http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corso_Sempione. English translation by Google: http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=auto&tl=en&u=http%3A%2F%2Fit.wikipedia.org%2Fwiki%2FCorso_Sempione) is a long tree‐lined boulevard in Milano; my hotel is in that boulevard, and at its south‐end there lies Parco Sempione—a huge park in which the Arena Civica is located.
As you approach the park, you come across the Arco della Pace (“Peace Arch”), which reminds a lot of Paris’ famous Arc de Triomphe. The closer you get to the Arco della Pace, the more bars, clubs, pubs and restaurants you see. Turns out (see below) that this area boasts one hell of a nightlife scene.
The Arco della Pace itself is very pretty so I took a few shots of it.
I then approached the venue and noticed that it was basically a stadium surrounded by a very old‐looking wall.
Picked up my ticket—front row, dead centre again—and entered the arena which was almost full at that point.
Mimmo Carrata was there so we greeted each other and agreed to meet later during Telegraph Road by the barriers, following our agreed‐upon positioning strategy. Mimmo appears to be quite the popular figure as I swear he was greeted by at least two million people there. Well, truth be told, he does seem like an extremely nice individual.
Concert started at 9:15pm to the sound of particularly loud cheers.
I can’t exactly recall what was going on during the first two or three songs in the concert. I mean, I do recall what happened; I just can’t recall anything that is related to music. What I do remember, though, was that I was gradually losing weight.
If you’re asking yourself how could one lose weight quickly while sitting on his ass watching eight musicians playing, I suggest you go sit at the Arena Civica in a hot, humid evening in mid‐summer. The mosquitoes will do the rest. I’m telling you, folks, they came by the dozens and they feared nothing. Often I clapped my hand to the sound of music while trying to aim the clap at a mosquitoes, hence getting two birds at once (cheering & killing mosquitoes). My success was limited; they just kept on coming and making my life miserable.
Looking to my sides, I realized that I was not the only one. Well, they say that misery likes company but my misery didn’t. My misery didn’t care at all; I just wanted out of this hell hole.
The band didn’t seem too happy with the mosquitoes either. Not that it affected their playing much, though; how could they play with such a mosquito attack? That’s beyond me.
After a few songs, I realized that it’s not worth it. Having defeated Poland and its stupid, degenerate railway system, I am almost ashamed to say that I was going to abort mission and miss the first concert in the tour because of those damn annoying mosquitoes.
An enthusiastic Knopfler fan was sitting right beside me. Before the concert, he mentioned that he recognized me as he’s reading this blog but he never actually told me his name; I’m pretty sure on that. He was there with his spouse.
The reason I’m telling you this is because after a few songs, the guy just looks at me and hands me something that I was willing to pay €50 right on the spot for. It was a transparent plastic bottle with an image of a mosquito on it, plus some red letters.
Whatever has a picture of a mosquito on it and red letters above—regardless of the language—must be a good thing. I think I emptied half of that bottle on my limbs, my neck, face, forehead, you name it. I was still itchy due to previous bites but things improved dramatically from there on.
Thank you, buddy. I was just about to leave my seat when you offered your mosquito killer. Hats off to you my man.
Anyway. The concert took place as part of the MJF—which I would like to believe stands for “Milano Jazz Festival” (no Internet connection at the moment so I can’t verify). Perhaps that was the reason why taking photographs was considered an act of utter disrespect to local law: whoever was seen holding a camera was immediately approached by an usher and asked to cease and desist. Before the guy approached me, I thought he was just bothering people who appeared to be filming, so I managed to take a few shots for you.
(I should mentioned at this point that this blog is the one single reason I am taking shots during concerts; they serve very little purpose to me, but I do realize they serve readers better than they serve me)
After a bit of a rocky Coyote solo and an uneventful Prairie Wedding (nothing unusual ever happens during this song), came a Hill Farmer’s Blues that shook the audience with yet another great outro solo. It was then when I realized that Milano’s audience was the loudest, most passionate audience in Italy so far (and, being the Milano concert the last one in Italy, I guess Milano’s audience wins here). Waves of cheers came from the terraces at the back, much like a hydrogen bomb cutting through seats and people all the way to the front.
Marbletown in Milano was a bit strange… unusual. Normally, the jam session starts as the last verse fades into a quiet piece, which then gets stronger until Danny hits that cymbal and it’s an all‐out war again with everybody improvising their asses off. This time, however, the “quiet part” was actually at the end; the fade out of the last verse didn’t reach to tones as low as usual—basically a short bridge and then it’s full power again. The quiet part came at the end.
I should note though that Matt’s involvement in the Marble‐jam session was much more evident than usual, which is a good thing as he knows how to lead it. Mike kept on reinventing his flute part into something I haven’t heard before—sort of a mixture of his previous routines.
Try giving it a listen. Maybe I am deaf.
Speedway at Nazareth took some audience members off their feet even before it ended. I was looking around me as the song was approaching its climax and I saw faces ready for war. People had the look on their faces as if they’re hypnotized, just waiting for the last chord to be struck so they can jump and yell their souls out—which is exactly what they did. I knew it was coming so I blocked my ears beforehand—which might be the reason I can still hear today.
The last chord in Telegraph Road marked the beginning of the most violent Running of the Bulls I have witnessed so far. All I had to do was just jump one meter ahead; how Mimmo made it from the far‐right to be just steps to my right is way beyond me, but what I do recall is a 55–60 years old man running from behind me and simply crashing full force into me. It was so rude and I was really on the verge of losing it; turned to him and gave him a yell that, regardless of your mother tongue, universally means “WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING?!”. He mumbled something in Italian and that was that.
With the masses attached to the barriers, security had absolutely no chance to control photographing. Lots of people video‐recorded whatever went on from then after; here are two shots of the audience cheering after the first part of the encore.
As the band took off the stage prior to the last song, fans who were at the first “row” started banging on the metal barriers creating thundering noise. I looked at one of them who was standing to my left; he basically ducked forward and banged on those barriers as if he’s a gorilla trying to break free from a cage. I have only seen animal‐like behaviour such as that on the discovery channel… amazing.
The band showed up minutes later with a good performance of Piper to the End, followed by immense cheers from this Knopfler‐hungry audience.
Show ended at around 11:15pm and it took a while to leave the venue due to bottlenecks at the exits.
Walking back to the hotel at the very same route I arrived, I couldn’t believe it was mid‐week. THOUSANDS of people on the streets, flocking the terraces of all pubs, bars, clubs—EVERYWHERE. I don’t even want to know what happens in this city on Saturday nights, or when Milan’s football club wins the national championship (when was the last time that happened, by the way?), or what would happen if Italy won the world cup. Young people in Milano appear to be averse for staying at home: flocking the streets at 11:30pm on weekdays… thrilling.
(I should note though that Tel‐Aviv is even crazier in that respect)
The Arco della Pace looks magnificent at night. Here are some photos—the first one also capturing the scores of people occupying all available seats on all terraces.
Went back to the hotel and pretty much directly to bed. The next day—July 15—had a 3 hours train ride to Switzerland waiting for me.
Signing off this post in a cafe called Mokaccino in Montreux, Switzerland. I arrived here before noon and I was amazed by the beauty of this place. Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post for pictures; trust me, you will not regret it.