Thursday, August 26, 2010
An Italian Jaunt
Replica David outside the Palazzo Vecchio
I am back from my jaunt around Italy and thought I would do a photo post as well as recount some musical experiences I had while traveling.
There is something that I must preface this post with first: I am not a "touristy" tourist. Well, at least I try not to be. I make sure my travel wardrobe does not include components of the following items: white runners, thick white sport socks, khaki bermuda shorts, a gawdy patterned button-up shirt, and a fanny pack. You may scoff at my outdated and stereotypical description but these fashion violators can often be seen around the most touristy of sites. I mean you no offense if you are one of these people---it's just not my style :)
The first musical experience that occurred was on a gondola ride into the heart of Venice. Our tour group booked 6 gondolas and on one of them happened to have a male singer as well as an accordion player. However, in going back to my initial point, I am often very resistant towards doing "touristy" things. I know this sometimes can't be avoided (a gondola is almost a must-do activity in Venice) but I'd much rather wander around on my own and figure things out (it makes me feel more like a local). Thus, when musicians are hired to entertain my tourist self when I've already allowed myself to indulge in the tourist activity of a gondola ride... it's like tourist overkill to me.
Instead of just enjoying the music, I wonder to myself---How many performances do they have to do in one day? How did they land this gig? is the vocal strain in the singer due to the fact that he's not properly looking after himself in between performances? How difficult it is to stand in a shaky gondola and sing? Have they ever fallen in? Do they get paid a percentage in tips or do they work on an hourly basis? How many times they have played Santa Lucia? Are they're totally sick of all their repertoire? Do they want to toss it in the canals? These are the things I ask myself.
It makes me sound a bit jaded but I often find myself looking at scenarios like this through a musician lens. Maybe the musicians absolutely love their job? Maybe they love performing on a moving stage? Maybe they love meeting lots of different people? Maybe they like working outside? I can how all those things make their job appealing. I do give the music one thing, it really creates an atmosphere. Without the music you would just focus on the creaking of the boat and the debris floating in the canal water. Not appealing. I suppose in moments like that, I should just take a deep breath, embrace the fact that I am, indeed, a tourist and I should enjoy these musicians in a tourist manner and not think so much about it. Easier said than done I must say!
In Venice I was also about to enjoy a bellini at Cafe Florian in St. Mark's Square while listening to this group. They played lots of familiar songs such as La Vie En Rose and Roxanne. Music is really the perfect complement to people watching.
Another lovely moment was catching some gorgeous Gregorian chant from the Franciscan monks during evening mass at the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi. I think Assisi was one of my favorite places. It's a quiet hill-top town. Church bells chime throughout the city, gorgeous and quaint buildings line the streets, and the city just has this sleepy energy. Also, one evening in Assisi I went out for a drink, and while sitting on the patio, I could see monks still walking the streets. There were a few pairs of them walking with members of their brotherhood all dressed in their brown robes and leather sandals conversing with their hands clasped behind their back. It just makes a location that much more atmospheric to see locals going about their daily life.
Time for a mini confession: I totally wouldn't mind being a monk. You get room and board, you don't have to worry about what you're going to wear, you get to lead a quiet lifestyle, and you get to sing gorgeous chant music in an excellent acoustic weekly (if not daily). I think the latter part of the perks list particularly resonates with me. Look at how chilled out the monk is in the picture below. Seems like life is pretty good.
Alas, my destiny is not to be a monk but it's nice to think of what other options might be open. I suppose I should be thinking of a nun instead of a monk (if I wanted to be realistic) but a girl can dream right?
At any rate, hope you enjoy the pictures!
Outside the Coliseum in Rome
On a boat cruise around the Isle of Capri
I did toss a coin into the Trevi fountain so hopefully I will return to Rome and the rest of Italy someday!