It is hard, after spending a few days in the company of two beautiful Italian women (or, as I refer to them, “Personal Assistant #1” and “Personal Assistant #2”. I, of course, was “The Boss”) who were kind enough (or should I say obedient enough) to make me feel like home every minute, to go back again to the routine of wake‐up / train / hotel / nap / concert / hotel. The first element in the chain—“wake‐up”—is arguably the most difficult one to get re‐adjusted to; gone are the days of waking up at 11:00am. I had to wake up early, so my two assistants could drive me to Arezzo’s train station from where I was going to take the train to Rome.
Quick breakfast and we were on our way. As we were driving through Toscana’s winding roads through valleys, hills and millions of green, I was thinking to myself when would be the next time I’ll have to privilege to see all of this. What a beautiful country. Perhaps my two assistants will remember the preferred treatment given to them by their Boss and re‐invite me for a few days; who knows. At least I know that I did my best and gave everything I had to my employees.
Kisses and hugs on the platform and I bid the duo goodbye; and there the sense of loneliness creeps in again as I depart Arezzo’s train station towards Rome; schedule is going to be quite difficult for the next couple of weeks until the tour is over. Wish me luck.
A boring train‐ride to Rome—about two hours and a half—out of which about half an hour was spent dozing off. As we approached Roma Termini, some ugly sights of nasty graffiti (including a few swastika’s; thanks for the warm welcome) dominated the view from the cabin’s windows. Minutes later I arrived at the train station.
Roma Termini, which is Rome’s central train station, turned out to be more comfortable and easier to navigate that I had thought. It is a fact that the English literacy rate in Italy is not the greatest, so I had a reason to be concerned—who knows when (if at all) I will find someone to give me a hint where to go in case I lost my way?
No worries, though. There are around 25 train platforms in this station, which also serves as a bus / tram / subway hub. Looking at Rome’s public transport map, Daria and I figured that I should take metro line A (there are only two metro—subway—lines in Rome) for a few stops, then take another subway to Euclide which is the nearest stop to the hotel.
After grabbing a sandwich at the train station—oh, what a wise decision that was (see below)—I followed the signs to the subway line and walked. And walked. And walked. For about 15 minutes!
Independent travel tip: unless you are absolutely and positively familiar with where you’re going and how long it’s going to take—knowledge that one can only get after actually arriving at the destination—do not, I repeat, do not stay hungry. If you’re feeling like hunger / thirst is going to strike soon—get something with you for the way, or eat something small even if you have plans for a big meal 20 minutes later. Shit tends to happen, and when you’re in stress, last thing you need is your stomach to yell at you.
Got a day‐pass for public transport in Rome for €4. Once again I realized that if there is a way to make money in this world, somebody must already have thought about it: right next to the automated ticketing machines, old women were standing trying to instruct tourists how to use the machine—then extending their hand to you asking you for a tip. Now, granted, the process of ordering a ticket is very complex: it consists of pressing one button to select your language, another button for the ticket type, inserting coins to the machine and picking up the ticket. 15 seconds and you’re done. I was shocked when a British couple next to me was actually very happy to use this service… but hey. There are many things I don’t understand.
Once arriving to Euclide—about 20 minutes later—I activated Google Maps for BlackBerry to guide me to the hotel. About one kilometre away—no problem, so I started walking through insanely winding streets, inclines, declines and whatnot in what appeared to be an upscale area of Rome. The weather: highly unacceptable for human living, very hot, sunny and humid. I had to stop a few times and sprinkle some water on my head; my back, attached to the backpack’s rear pads, became one tremendous pool of sweat.
(Sorry about the last one; I’m apparently too much in the habit of providing extraneous details)
After about 20 minutes of slow walk (due to the terrain), I noticed that, at the point where Google Maps wanted me to proceed straight instead of turn right, there stood a gate.
Now, when you’re hot, semi‐hungry, with a 70L backpack tied around your hips, the last thing you want to see in front of you while navigating in foreign territory is a gate. Especially when the gate is tall, closed, and carries the number “22” on it next to the street’s name.
In retrospect, I realized that the entire area I was walking on was actually on a hill; zooming into the map revealed a disturbing fact—Google Maps decided to draw a walking‐line between two paths that have no connection between them. Following Google Maps’ route would first involve trespassing into private property, crossing it to the other end and them jump off a cliff about 40–50 metres high. I figured that this would be a bit tricky to do with a 70L backpack tied around me (and, besides, I’m not a big fan of trespassing) so I decided to seek an alternate route.
Retraced and attempted a seemingly‐possible route. About half way through it, I realized that the walking path I was supposed to go through—a walking‐only route down the hill through some crowded bush—was closed to pedestrian access.
There I was, stuck in a pretty fancy area in Rome, not knowing where to go and what to do. Looking at the map for yet another route, I realized the distance is going to be too great to bear.
Had I not had the Wroclaw Glowny experience stretching my nerves to never‐seen‐before records, I would probably have started panicking already. However, I have already defeated Poland; and whatever doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.
Someone was doing painting work at a nearby apartment building. Turned out he spoke a bit of English—just enough so I can understand him after 5 or 6 attempts for each sentence. Conclusion: I’m screwed, and have to walk about 3km walk as penalty.
Just as I turned around to leave, a UPS truck approached the very same building. The driver couldn’t speak English if his life depended on it, however through that worker I sort‐of had the idea that yes, the pathway I was going to take is closed for public access.
I then asked whether I can hitch a ride to the bottom of the hill, from where I could walk. I didn’t quite understand the response, but I think it had something to do with “I can’t, I am working”. Finally, the delivery recipient showed up and—lo and behold—an almost fluent English speaker!
The UPS driver agreed to drive me to the hotel if I am patient enough to wait until he finishes his route—3 stops left. You bet I do! hopped on the truck and for some reason he decided to take me all the way to my hotel before doing any stops. What a kind man—I owe him quite a bit of sweat. Needless to say I made it well worth the while for him.
How crazy is that, huh… getting lost at the dead‐ends of a foreign city, and being rescued by a UPS truck after having a 4‐way discussion having only 2 participants speak English. Life is an adventure, I suppose. I was very happy to arrive at the hotel.
My hotel, Hotel Villa Garni, is a 4‐star hotel close to the venue (about one kilometre). Super‐quiet location—not too far from Rome’s touristic areas (about two kilometres), and still has lots to see and do around. Great room, fantastic facilities and the price—€55/night—is nothing to complain about. I arrived at around 3:00pm; long shower and straight to bed for a nap.
Not for long, though. I just wasn’t in the mood to sleep; after an hour or so, I decided to pack my laptop and go for a stroll around Rome—then have dinner.
While walking I realized a much easier route from Roma Termini to my hotel. It’s about 20 minutes walk to Flaminio Station, from where Metro Line A takes you directly to Roma Termini within 10 minutes. Oh, the things you learn just by walking around.
Rome (or Roma in Italian; Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rome) is the capital of Italy. Now there’s a city with quite a bit of mileage on it—its history spans more than 2,500 years and walking through its streets and looking at the sights makes you realize how small and insignificant you are. Rome is, and always has been, a major influence over western civilization; it is nicknamed “Capital of the World” for that reason exactly.
There is no way in hell you can cover everything there is to see and do in Rome in less than, say, a week; let alone one single afternoon. I, of course, accepted it but I will—I repeat: I will return. If you were thinking about being shot with a cannonball of history, well, Rome is a pretty darn good place to get your fix (I, however, bear stronger sentiments towards Jerusalem; it is, after all, older and is no less impressive than Rome—perhaps even more).
Back to my route: Piazza del Popolo (Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piazza_del_Popolo) is right next to the Flaminio Station. A huge square that used to be a favourite site for public executions (the last one taking place in 1826), boasting impressive statues and fountains. The square as it looks today was designed by Giuseppe Valadier who was clever enough to link the square with Pincio, the Pincian Hill of ancient Rome; you can see some of the linkage at the last picture of this bunch.
Past the Piazza del Popolo, the path splits into three; I chose the middle one (for no apparent reason other than instinct) and proceeded straight ahead. Welcome to Rome’s old city centre area.
History just screams at you everywhere you look while walking down the narrow streets here.I vowed to return to this place at night time as I just knew it had to be gorgeous.
It was around 5:30pm when I decided to sit down for lunch. I got a lead to a place called “Difronte A…” by someone who is familiar with my strong emotional ties with pizza’s and suggested I give the place a chance. Upon entering, I was informed that pizza’s only start serving at 6:00pm.
I was already hungry but decided to wait till 6:00pm. In the meantime, I continued rambling around the streets of this magnificent city, all the way down the street to Piazza Venezia (Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piazza_Venezia) where I chose as the boundary of my short exploration of this city.
Piazza Venezia is an extremely pretty sight: it is located near (and named after) Palazzo Venezia where the former embassy of the Republic of Venezia used to stand.
It was 6:00pm already so I started walking back towards “Difronte A…”. Entering the place at 6:15pm and looking forward to chew on some seriously thrilling pizza, I was informed by one of the workers there that someone (either the server or the cook; couldn’t exactly understand) hasn’t arrived yet so unfortunately my pizza cannot be made and / or served. No ETA for arrival either so I was welcome to sit and wait but hey, no guarantee.
Just when I thought I experienced everything… I keep getting surprised. At the end of this tour, I’ll have so many stories to tell.
As time started to become a sensitive issue, I decided to eat at a nearby restaurant. Don’t really recall its name, but no harm done—it’s not exactly one of those places one would be proud to have visited. Just OK pizza, nothing special. Overpriced too: €12 for pizza & drink and I was still hungry.
Another restaurant nearby had an interesting selection of desserts so I sat down for a brilliant tiramisu and the best cappuccino I had in Italy so far. Very well done.
Half an hour walk back to the hotel, unloaded the laptop and headed to the venue—about 10 minutes walk north.
The name of the venue as it appeared on the official markknopfler.com website is misleading: there is no such thing as “Cavea Auditorium” in Rome: what there is is a huge music complex called Auditorium Parco della Musica (Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parco_della_Musica), which is a music complex offering four locations in which concerts can take place—one of which is called “Cavea”.
markknopfler.com ticket owners were instructed to pick their tickets up at a certain booth; well, this is Italy after all—order and organization aren’t exactly the most evident traits here so after waiting in line for 10 minutes I was instructed to go to a different line.
Was good to meet Mimmo Carreta and Marco Caviglia there—the sight of familiar faces is always a good boost for morale, especially when the faces are the facade of interesting & nice people. Picked‐up the five tickets—one for myself and four for sale to the lucky two couples who purchased my American friends’ tickets—and went outside.
Pasquale and Giacomo were there already with their spouses. Tickets transferred and thank you everybody who helped out. Anna & Renato were there too, was great seeing them; took some photos and they will be published here once I get them by email.
Concert time approached so I entered the venue. The Cavea is an open‐air theatre which looked very small to me. I couldn’t find information as to the Cavea’s seating capacity but it reminded me of the venue in Santa Rosa, California (oh Lord, I can’t believe it has been three months since Santa Rosa!) for its size.
Another interesting thing about the Cavea is the low stage. the stage couldn’t have been more than 80cm high, and combined with the venue being so small, it felt pretty intimate; while not as impressive as the previous venues in Italy (with regards to surroundings), still it was a concert experience to look forward to. Here’s a shot of my shoes (still the same pair! Yes, my shoes survived the rainy concerts in Scandinavia and the huge mud puddle called Norwegian Wood Festival) and the stage, demonstrating how close everything was.
My seat was at the front row, dead centre and the two couples who got the tickets from me were seated to my immediate right. The concert was scheduled to start at 9:00pm, and by 9:15pm—the concert’s start time—the venue was completely full.
The venue’s staff appeared to be a bit averse to the practice of taking photographs so I’m sorry for the somewhat crappy pictures. The pictures which are shot from the side of the stage were taken during Sultans of Swing as I apparently drank way more water than my body could sweat.
The Cavea is a small, very small venue but had you heard the audience throughout the concert you would think that you’re in a sold‐out Molson Amphitheatre filled with moderately‐drunk Canucks. The cheers often came long seconds before songs ended, as well as during the songs—any slow‐down by the band was a reason for a wild cheer.
Unusually strong cheers, though, came during and after Hill Farmer’s Blues. Mark appeared to have checked his inhibitions somewhere in the dressing room and worked out such a beautiful, touching solo that most audience member (myself included) started cheering half way through it. I can’t seem to recall such a haunting outro solo for this song.
The outro solo of Sultans of Swing also extracted massive cheers as it was of the better ones this tour. I listened very carefully but could only spot one semi‐muted fingerpick towards the end.
Telegraph Road’s outro solo—not of the top ones during this tour yet pleasant nonetheless—sent the masses towards the stage. Now mind you, there was no barrier between the audience and the stage, and the stage line was not one long straight line but rather shaped like a polygon. My voyage forward—to ensure I can see something during the encore—amounted to one short hop forward; Mimmo, on the other hand, somehow managed to travel a distance of about 10 metres in less than a second, ending his long journey right next to me.
I tried to take a few shots while aiming the camera at the audience while stabilizing it on the stage. It didn’t go too well—sorry—but I tried my best to take pictures that will demonstrate what was going on and show you how intimate this entire gig has been.
Great encore with wild cheering throughout—I had to duck forward a few times just to not have my eardrums pinched by the massive noise—and the concert ended at around 11:20pm.
By the time I left the venue, I started feeling hungry again. After short contemplation as to what I should do, I decided to go back to the old city area—the same area I walked around earlier that day—and find something to eat there. Took the bus from nearby the hotel all the way to Flaminio station, and started walking from there. Hardly anything was open but people still walked the beautiful streets. I grew hungrier as I walked, really hoping to find some food at the end of my journey—the wonderful Piazza Venezia.
Just facing this breathtaking square, there was a small restaurant with a terrace. Ordered a Panini and some water, sat down watching the Piazza and the cars drive by; once done, a small gelato cone from a nearby gelateria and then walked all the way back to the hotel—not before taking one final shot:
Back at the hotel, caught up with quite a bit of blogging and went to sleep at around 3:00am—short night sleep before the travel to Milano early next morning.