Returning to Carmen & Roberto’s home after the hot, humid, sweaty and somewhat obnoxious day, I opened up the room’s windows and went pretty much straight to bed for a good night sleep. Even though there have only been two concerts since the last day off, it seemed as if forever and a day had passed and a day off was certainly due.
I spent my first 25 years in a country where the springs and summers equally unbearably hot, with temperatures rising to annoying levels and humidity at the 90% zone. Believe it or not, the summer of 2002 was the last time I experienced such hot & humid Mediterranean weather; I decided to schedule my annual visits back home for December, mostly because that’s considered “winter” there and it’s the only weather I can live with.
Spending some time in Toscana, though, brought up distant memories of unbearable summers. I remember the terminal effect that such hotness and humidity have on one’s alertness and altogether will to carry on; it is very annoying and I wouldn’t recommend it to anybody.
It seemed like neither the two Italian sisters nor myself were looking for any challenges today; we were invited to visit Roberto’s farm, also in Toscana, about 10–15 minutes drive from the house we stayed at. Quick breakfast, a quick visit to the city centre and off we went to the farm.
The farm we visited lies on a huge area—basically, a small hill. Roberto is in the stage of building a few small houses and utility structures there; already made quite the progress and the views of the farm and from it are breathtaking; that’s what life in Toscana are all about, according to Daria. People work very hard here to build and maintain their farms.
I always claimed that the Italian cuisine is my favourite; however, at the farm, finally I had the chance to eat some home‐made food, courtesy of Carmen who turns out to be one hell of a cook. We had pasta stuffed with spinach and cheese, with meat sauce… but with a twist: other than the meat in the sauce, all ingredients were products of the farm itself. Talk about fresh home‐made organic meal: my God was that delicious.
Even the water used to make the pasta are actually “farm‐made”; rather than using municipal water, this pasta was made using water taken from a well in the farm. The side salad? that’s right, everything grown in that same farm.
What can I tell you, folks. That’s dining at its best. We also had some Chianti wine (which wasn’t produced at that farm; I don’t think Roberto is planning on a winery).
Right after lunch, Roberto took us all for a tour around the farm, showing us the ducks, geese, goats, chickens and other items that he has there in his disposal and you probably don’t.
After the tour, I took some more photos of the area.
Roberto & Carmen probably knew, a long time ago, that I’ll be visiting one day. That’s probably why they set‐up a hammock right there between the trees; I took advantage, of course. I actually spent a few hours on that hammock, resting my head off.
For dinner, we all went back to the house we were staying at for another round of Toscana farm food, which was of course delicious. That day was a very good eating & resting day, granted. I can only wish for more days like that.
Went to bed feeling very happy for a day off well‐spent.
The next day (July 12) was our last day in Tuscany. Perugia is located about an hour drive from the house we stayed in, so we left home late and got to Perugia about three hours before the concert’s scheduled start time.
Perugia (Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perugia) is not located in Toscana; it is located in Umbria, which borders with Toscana. It is the capital of the Italian province by the same name, and is known for its artistic character.
The concert was to take place as part of the Umbria Jazz Festival (Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Umbria_Jazz_Festival) which is one of the most important Jazz festivals in the world. Not only Jazz is played at the festival; Sting, Eric Clapton and Phil Collins performed here at least once before.
The view from the car’s windows as we entered the city of Perugia wasn’t too promising, however it wasn’t too long before I started noticing the beauty around, as well as the insane terrain this city is built on. As we were driving to get to the venue, we drove uphill, very high grade, roads and alleys so narrow that we all had doubts whether a car can actually pass through. Sharp turns as well; it was such a convoluted ride—one of those rides during which you keep thinking to yourself “no, this can’t be right; I must be doing something wrong”.
At the end, though, we arrived at our destination; the entrance to Arena Santa Giuliana is actually located a few steps away from Perugia’s main bus terminal. We parked the car at the parkade right below the bus terminal and went to see what’s what.
There appeared to be problems with the markknopfler.com ticket collection, with respect to availability time; the tickets were supposed to be available for pickup at 7:00pm but due to technical difficulties they weren’t. That has put us in a bit of a problem as I made plans to meet with the two couples who bought my American friends’ tickets. Anyway, we all met shortly after and decided to meet again closer to show time to do the exchange.
Our next task was to find a place to eat. As I was returning from meeting with the ticket buyers, Daria and Valeria were busy talking to somebody. Turned out that was Marco Caviglia, a famous figure within Dire Straits / Mark Knopfler fans as he is in the habit of playing guitar with John Illsley and Chris White from time to time; also, a personal friend of a few band members including Mark Knopfler himself. Daria introduced us to each other as we all started to make our way towards Perugia’s city centre, looking for something to eat. Had a very interesting discussion with Marco on our way there; was interesting to find out that we share similar career paths. Interesting and lovely chap, I must say.
(Marco, I’m telling you, flip that “חי” already; come on, make us all proud)
Walking through tunnels, following obscure stairwells, we found ourselves at the top of yet another hill in Perugia’s landscape, which appeared to be where most Umbria Jazz Festival action takes place. That city centre area is beautiful to say the least. That’s Italy at its best, folks.
We all ended up sitting in a pizzeria that offered moderately‐acceptable pizza and absolutely terrible service. As I mentioned to Valeria and Daria at the table, Italian food may be the best food in the world but sometimes I get the feeling that, in restaurants, there sometimes is nobody who’s willing to feed you as quickly as you may wish. It took forever for our orders to arrive, during which everybody at the table was speaking Italian and I kept wishing I could make any sense of what they’re saying.
There’s something in the Italian language and the way that Italians speak that makes you really want to be a part of the conversation. People here talk right from the heart, very passionately; laughter here is, at most cases, very real. I should learn Italian. Anyway, I used the waiting time to take a couple of shots of the place, as well as catch‐up with blogging.
left the table as soon as I finished eating as I was supposed to meet with the ticket buyers near the venue. However, as I was too busy talking to Marco on our way to the restaurant, I completely neglected to pay attention to the path we took, making me lose my way within one minute of departure. That wasn’t necessarily a bad thing; see the viewpoint I came across.
As I noticed that my end goal is to actually get to the bottom of the hill, I realized that walking along the road will take about 2,000 years and I should seek those stairs again. I found them, and as I was walking down, I realized how great and convoluted those paths are. I think I stepped down about two millions steps altogether.
Finally, I made it to the venue; the buyers—one couple from Toronto (!) and one couple from Denver—showed up on time and we had a lovely little chat during which I heard about how they all met and they heard about this little trip I’m doing. They found it a bit hard to fathom at first, but once they noticed I was dead serious about it we were all good and happy.
Concert time approached so I entered the venue.
Didn’t take photos of the venue prior to the concert, because I am stupid; I took some during the concert and a few after it was over, so bear with me.
What can I tell you, folks… Italy did it again. So far, the Get Lucky venues in Italy are the most impressive of them all. The venue is located right next to the Santa Giuliana Church, featuring a brilliant tower rising behind the arena. You can only see it, however, if you’re standing on the stage looking at the audience.
Prior to the concert’s start, I ran into Anna & Renato—two hard‐core Knopfler fans who are also following this blog. Super nice individuals, it’s fun to see nice people getting so excited about concerts. They were kind enough to give me a present—thank you, Anna & Renato! Was great meeting with you.
Ran into a few fans who also made it to previous shows in Italy, including Mimmo Carrata, who accidentally met my elbow during the encore at the Lucca concert. Mimmo is well‐known amongst Knopfler fans for his exquisite collection of Mark Knopfler / Dire Straits related items. He is also one of the best English‐speaking Italians I have met so far—very nice chap.
The concert started right on time, on 9:30pm.
Just as the concert in Piazzola sul Brenta a few days earlier, the concert in Perugia was also one to remember for many things—not just the music.
First of all, the weather. As this arena is in fact in high altitude, a brilliant gentle breeze makes for some lovely experience weather‐wise. It just could not possibly be any better; total feeling of relaxation during the concert.
Second, the surroundings. Mark took the time to express his satisfaction with the beauty around us; in fact, Italy wins big in this category so far in the tour, and I am reluctant to believe it’s going to change (although I have heard that the venues in Lyons and Nîmes also have some beauty to offer; we’ll see in a few days).
Music‐wise, the concert in Perugia featured one of the most memorable Sailing to Philadelphia performances. The band played great—as usual—however it was Mark’s work during the outro solo of this song that took this particular performance two steps further. Brilliant, touching Stratocaster touch beautifully complementing John’s whistle work. I am considering purchasing the Simfy Live recording of this show if only for the Sailing to Philadelphia performance. It was a total gem.
Unlike the concert in Lucca, nobody was in any rush here; still, two songs less than the median number of songs (14; Lucca—13). No setlist surprises other than that.
The two lucky couples who purchased my American friends’ tickets were very lucky; their seats were actually better than mine, as they were seated to my left, as you can see in the following picture.
So except for a spectacular Sailing to Philadelphia, we also had a very good Marbletown performance. The band is still in the habit of expanding it and exploring ways to make it more and more beautiful—sometimes even working a bit too much, to my taste. Still a beautiful performance but my taste is for a simpler, a bit less bombastic performance.
The security staff in Perugia appeared to understand the rules of the Running of the Bulls; a good Telegraph Road performance sent the masses to the stage. Prior to the concert’s start, I informed the two couples of what was going to happen, so they don’t get stuck watching people’s backs during the encore. They complied and got the thrill of watching a great encore from the best standing position in the house.
As usual in Italy so far, fantastic participation of the audience. Before coming to Italy, I was told by many people that Italian fans are crazy, insane, sometimes rude, very noisy and such; I disagree. I don’t consider the Italian fans to be overly‐crazy; in fact, my impression so far is that the Italian audiences are very participating, very hearty and cheer right from the soul. I really am enjoying my time in Italy, and my enjoyment during the concerts has a lot to do with the audience.
Hats off to the great Italian audience; with all honesty, folks, I am impressed. It’s not an accident, I think, that Mark & the band play very well here—they get fantastic feedback.
The concert ended at around 11:30pm. Before heading back to the car, I had the chance to meet with Isabella Lari, an Italian Knopfler fan who’s been following this journey of mine. We kept in Facebook‐touch over the last couple of months and got the chance to finally meet yesterday. She was there with her boyfriend, Carlo Alberto—and was surrounded by many of her friends, also Knopfler fans. We took a few photos together—not with my camera though (if any of you guys is reading this, how about emailing those photos to me? thanks).
Took a few shots of the empty venue before leaving…
… as well as the surroundings.
Back to the car and we drove back to Carmen & Roberto’s home, an hour drive away. Straight into bed as the next day (July 13; which is today) was going to be a bit of a long day.