Thursday, November 22, 2007

Who me, a mafioso?

In 30 years that I lived in Canada, from about the age of 7 or 8 when I began to understand what it meant to be the son of Italian immigrants, I was constantly bombarded with jokes and puns on typical Italian things, such as pizza, spaghetti and the mafia. Having also THE most Italian-sounding name around, Mario, didn’t also help things much (the inevitable question would be: “Hmm, Mario, are you Italian? Bet your old man is a mafioso, eh”? or one of my favourites: “Bet you eat spaghetti every day, eh”?).

I used to get the jokes from ignorami all the way to the “intellectuals”. One just happened to be the head of the consular section at the U.S. Consulate-General in Montréal (this guy had hanging in his office a picture where he's shaking hands with the Shah of Iran, well before the U.S. hostage crisis there). Having worked with the odd diplomat here and there, many I must say are rather “cultured”, well-travelled, have a few degrees in their pockets and also speak several languages. I had had an in-house promotion one day at the Consulate and I was going to be working for this diplomat. I'll never forget on Monday morning as I showed up for my first day of work as he was going out for coffee. We crossed paths. He looked at me and said and with a big laugh said, “Here comes Mario the Mafioso. Now we can feel protected”! Unfortunately, I couldn’t very well tell him to piss-off as he was going to be my new boss, and so I had to simply chuckle at his wonderful pun.

But Italy’s image at home (and abroad) also doesn’t help matters much. On the one hand, the International Herald Tribune ran an editorial on November 21st by Yossi Alpher, the former special assistant to Prime Minister Ehud Barak. Here’s how Alpher describes Syria’s Assad: “Assad may resemble a Mafia chief, but unlike Abbas, he can deliver”. On the other hand, the November 10th edition of The Economist (which I’ve been subscribing to for the last 15 years or so), ran two articles on Italy, and both were rather negative. One was on the death of a Roman woman in a seedy neighbourhood of Rome at the hands of a gypsy punk. Flip the page and there’s an article on the arrest of a high-profile mafia boss in Sicily, Toto' Lo Piccolo. On page 69 of the same issue there’s instead an article on corruption in Bangladesh. The article starts off in the following manner: “The problem is that the mafia in Bangladesh were the political parties"...

Another article the other day mentioned the fact that Italian politicians aren’t seen in a very positive manner abroad (Bush seems to have a high esteem of Germany’s Merkel and France’s Sarkozy, but not of Italy’s Prodi). Some things concerning Italians, even after 18 years that I’ve left Canada, never seem to change…

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Piggie in the middle?

Yes, it’s indeed a rough life these days if you’re a pig in Italy. In Padova (aka as Padua), where St. Anthony also lived the last days of his life, the “Lega Nord”, the somewhat xenophobic “Northern League”, has come up with a rather "novel" idea of impeding the construction of a new mosque in that city: a handful of NL members have created a "Pig Day" in which they march around dragging a (live) pig on a leash over the construction site of where the mosque should be erected! By doing so (and hoping that the pig’s prostate is weak too), they hope that the area will be desecrated and therefore local Muslims will be so disgusted as to not want to construct their new mosque there.

Politics comes into the picture (no, really, in Italy?) as the NL members in Padova have stated that thanks to the left who gave the plot of land to the Muslim community in the first place, they have triumphantly marched with their small swine and “blessed” the land under their feet and under those of the Muslim community. Naturally, the left-wing mayor of the city is disgusted by the NL’s peculiar gesture and feels that his fellow citizens are too. The tiny piglet’s official title by the way is “the anti-mosque pig” (no official uniform though has been given to the swine).

Once all the hoopla will be over with and the pig’s work is no longer needed, I wonder just how many slices of fine prosciutto will end up on the tables of NL members (washed down naturally with some fine Italian red wine)?

Monday, November 05, 2007

I found the “G”!

I won’t dwell too much in this posting on the recent polemic surrounding the tragic death of a 47 year-old Roman woman at the hands of a 24 year-old Romanian gypsy criminal as the immigration issue has now become a hot “potato” pretty well all over the world, including Italy (and cases like the recent one in Rome’s somewhat run-down Tor Di Quinto neighborhood unfortunately WON'T be the last will see either).

What I will instead talk about is what our illustrious former “Great Leader”, Silvio Berlusconi, said the other day while strolling in an Italian town. It was in reference to a part of a woman’s anatomy which is still somewhat shrouded in mystery. Silvio, not one new to certain “faux pas” (as Prime Minister years ago he had gone on a visit to Wall Street. In order to attract more American investments to Italy, he came out with the less-than brilliant comment: "We also have beautiful secretaries"! No doubt, this comment probably didn't go down very well with businesswomen such as Meg Whitman, Ms. e-Bay herself!), said the following: “I’ve found the woman’s G spot. It's located in the last letter of the word “shopping”!

Oh, I can hardy wait for the day that he becomes (again) Italy’s Prime Minister…

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Holy Viagra Batman!

Is there nothing sacred in this world? Judicial authorities in Rome have put under investigation four employees of the Vatican’s pharmacy. The reason? They were caught selling expired medicine but at the regular price (they passed the pills to customers making them think they weren’t expired). The pharmacy is known in Rome to have great prices but it’s apparently off-limits to the general public (it's only open to Vatican employees). Authorities became suspicious upon noting the added work that the four employees had.

Those naughty priests (one allegedly admitted on hidden camera the other day that he is in fact gay, causing quite the stir in certain Vatican circles), are they perhaps stocking up on Viagra?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Caprese Michelangelo

Ever heard of Carpese Michelangelo? Probably not. Ever heard though of the Sistine Chapel? The Moses and Pieta’ statues located in Rome, not to mention the incredible David statue located in Florence’s Accademia? No doubt yes. Well, Caprese Michelangelo is the birthplace of none other than the sculptor, painter, architect (his is the cupola which sits atop of St. Peter’s Basilica) and poet know to the world as Michelangelo Buonarroti.

The town, actually village (pop. 20!), is located about 260 km from Rome, near the Umbria, Tuscany and Emilia Romagna borders. Michelangelo was born in Caprese on March 6th, 1475. His birthplace is located in a tiny castle atop of a small hill. The surrounding area has a population of only 1,500 people. The village itself isn’t too far from Florence (his family’s roots are Florentine) and Carrara, famous not only for its exquisite marble but also for the material which Michelangelo used for many of his sculptures (the Moses, located next to the Rome’s Coliseum, is simply incredible. His Pieta’ instead is his only work which carries his name. It’s actually inscribed on Mary’s sash and through the bullet-proof glass it can be seen if one looks carefully. Back then, there was someone in Milan who was going around saying that HE was the real Michelangelo who has sculpted the Pieta’. Buonarroti, enraged by the news, decided to lay claim to HIS masterpiece, and therefore signed sculpture).

In 1503 Michelangelo was commissioned by Pope Giulius II to come to Rome and paint the Sistine Chapel, a place where most of the world congregates once it makes its way through the incredible maze of the Vatican Museums (I’ve been on several occasions to the V.M. Most tourists just whiz by the incredible works of art to do just one thing: to see up close the amazing ceiling of the Sistine Chapel). The artist also created the square which sits right in front of Rome’s City Hall which has also become a symbol for the City of Rome. From tiny Caprese, Michelangelo not only made his way to the Eternal City but also died there at the “ripe” age of 90.

And the food in his hometown? Well, you’re blogger also happens to be part of the Italian Sommeliers’ Association. What to say about eating in a tiny pensione-restaurant right under Michelangelo’s home: tortellini with truffles, polenta with boar and all washed down with some fine red Tuscan wine! Indeed, a “rough” life.

Some pictures of Caprese Michelangelo, the tiny St. John the Baptist’s church where young Michelangelo was baptized and some of the surrounding towns (the cat by the way was guarding the ATM machine!), including a very nice Franciscan sanctuary where yes, St. Francis had once frequented during his many pilgrimages throughout the country (all pics by M. Rimati).

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Why it's fun to live in the "Old Europe"!

Karpathos is an island located between Rhodes and Crete. It's part of the Dodecanese islands. To get there, we took a chartered flight from Ljubljana (there are also flights from Athens). After slightly two hours we were on splendid sandy white beaches. One minute I was in Italy, then in Slovenia and then in Greece, in like 4 hours' time! Cool!

The island itself is just 49 km long and only 11 km wide with a population of about 6,500 people. Unlike Milos (home of the famous Venus which is found in the Louvre) which we had visited 2 years ago and which is much closer to Athens, Karpathos is rather void of (very) expensive yachts and boats and therefore the surrounding water is simply crystal clear and with practically no traces of boating pollution. In fact, the beaches themselves (with very few tourists in September) can be wonderfully silent as there are few boats which pass by (on one beach there were only five of us one day!). Those who come from Chicago will no doubt find themselves very much at home on Karpathos as it's an incredibly windy island (thus making those very hot days much more bearable).

We rented a scooter and covered some 450 km in just one week, exploring many of the magnificent and deserted beaches. Costs are still incredibly low in Greece. For example, two lawn chairs and a beach umbrella ran as low as just 5 euros and as “high” as a whopping 6 euros. A far cry from what they charge at Ostia! Sights to see include the secluded town of Olympos. To get there, you can either take a boat ride and dock at Diafani and take the 9 km bus ride to the town or you can do what we did and take the "Highway to Hell" road: a 18 km dirt road full of rocks and holes which winds all the way up to Olympos (hopefully, EU funding one day will help the islanders to pave that road thus increasing even further tourism to Olympos). If you're going to take that route, the best way is to rent one of the many small jeeps which are available. The ride is no doubt much more comfortable. The paved road back to the main town (Pigadia, where the main port is located) amongst the high cliffs is worthy of a high-speed chase scene from a Bond movie!

Many locals speak rather good English as many had gone to live in the Boston area and in Canada. Sensing that Karpathos is on the rise tourism-wise, after more than 30 years in North America many have moved back to their native island to open hotels and restaurants (we ate in one for as low as 24 euros). There’s a small airport which is slowly expanding. The one and only terminal for the time being has a luggage retrieval about the size of ones washroom and the duty-free shop is currently located in a container but the plane got us there and back safely and that’s what counts the most. The organization, a Slovenian-Greek cooperation, went off very smoothly. Our hotel, the Amoopi Bay, was exceptionally convenient as it was located right in front of some splendid beaches. There was also a pool-side bbq one evening and with 12 euros you could eat all you wanted to. The surrounding mountainous area is rather barren, almost lunar-looking actually, but nevertheless varied with the odd goat located here and there as you drive by on your scooter. Quite amazing to see just how far the Roman empire once stretched as there’s even an ancient Roman cistern located on the island.

Some of the old villagers also speak rather good Italian. From 1912 to 1944 the Italians had captured Karpathos from the Turks who had gained control of the island in 1830 under the Protocol of London. October 7th, 1944 is an important date as the islanders, tired of foreign occupation, took up arms in the town of Menetes on October 5th and after three days had liberated their island once and for all of Italian troops. Karpathos: no doubt worth a summer-time visit next year (all pics by M. Rimati).

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Go ahead, make my day!

Ever wanted to re-enact that famous scene from a “Dirty Harry” movie, you know, the one with Clint Eastwood, where he stares at a punk criminal and says, “Go ahead, make my day”?, when you’re at a red light and a window washer just won't take NO for an answer? It’s come across my mind a zillion times in more than 15 years of living in the “Eternally Chaotic” city, Rome, where one is bombarded by an array of gypsies, Pakistanis, Bengalis and what not on a daily basis.

The latest “polemic” in the Bel Paese now regards a politician in the Florence government: he’s finally said “basta” to window washers that torment Florentine drivers. He’s threatened them with fines of up to 250 euros, three months in jail and the confiscation of their tools (wow, that'll really hurt them by taking away their sponges!!!). Naturally, in Italy where hardly anyone ever takes any law without some type of Machiavellian-like discussion, politicians at a national level are up in arms, starting with the left, which says that the real root of the problem aren’t the “poor” window washers (some take in up to 70 euros per day while others are forced to bring home up to 100 euros) but the racket which runs them. In Rome alone up to 80% are controlled by the Romanian mob (n.b. the phenomenon had started more than 10 years ago with the Poles who had flocked to Rome because of their fellow compatriot, Pope JPII. They were eventually supplanted by the Albanians. That ethnic group has been replaced by Pakistanis and Romanians, especially since Romania recently joined the EU).

There are up to 600 window washers working in Milan and nearly 1,000 in Naples. My own personal experience with them in Rome? Oh, on many occasions I would have wanted to be James Bond in his sleek Austin Martin: press a button on my dashboard and BOOM! They disappear behind a tiny rocket. One memorable incident occurred near the FAO building (the U.N.'s Food and Agricultural Organisation). A gypsy girl insisted on washing my windshield. I caved in and said ok. I ended up giving her a few cents, perhaps 50. She looked at them and not being enough, threw them right back into the car! I think, atrocious as it may sound, I uttered the word “Dachau” as she walked away…

And they’ll use all sorts of techniques to wash your windows. You activate your windshield wipers? They’ll wash the one in the back! And it’s even worse if you happen to be a woman alone in the car. Some of the window washers come from countries where the woman doesn’t count for much. That means that several NOs! just go in one ear and out the other, so the poor female drivers have to cave in and dish out the money. For me standing at 1m90 (or roughly 6’2”) and weighing some 103 kilos (or about 227 pounds), well, when I say NO! it usually means no (especially for the poor Pakistani or gypsy kid who is half my height and weighs 1/3 of what I weigh!).

The other annoying thing in Rome are gas stations, the self-service ones, which are open all night. You pull up and there sitting on a chair will be an (illegal) immigrant reading the “Islamabad Daily” who for 50 cents will fill up your car. They're not as pushy as the window washers and if you don't want them to fill up your tank, you just do it yourself (one idiot that did end up filling my tank once actually did it while smoking a cigarette! When I told him that he’d blow up along with me and my car, he immediately threw the ciggie away!).

Other fun and annoying things also regard illegal car valets. Yes, if you go to an evening show or even to the hospital to see a friend or relative, you’ll get some moron approaching you and asking you something for a “coffee”. And if you refuse to pay? Well, when you go back to your car you may find your radio antenna broken, or your side view mirror cracked, or perhaps even a tire slashed (or in extreme cases, your car won’t be there when you get back!). Kids in Rome who go out on the town and to discos once complained on a radio talk show that the cops don’t do enough as those who do refuse to pay the valets find their cars quite often destroyed. I call them “mosquitoes” because they can be very, very annoying, especially when you’re parking your car on public and not private property. Again, where’s Clint Eastwood when you need him…

And how are things in tiny Udine? Well, much better I must say: no window washers at the traffic lights, no hookers on the streets and no illegal valets as you go to the Stadio Friuli to see your beloved Udinese (my cousin has been going for about 35 years to the stadium to see Udinese. If someone were to touch his beloved BMW or ask him for money, I think he’d make Bin Laden look like a boy scout. He’d literally go ballistic!).

And what is the irony in this new law that many other Italian cities want to copy from the Florentine example? That court hearings will now be swamped with window washers who have been arrested and in many cases, these same window washers won't even bother showing up for such a "petty" crime (Italy's judicial system and the zillion cases it contains is in a rather disastrous situation. The main tribunal in Rome has been defined a “suk” by lawyers!). I personally find it extremely difficult that several thousand illegal window washers will be tried in Italian courts. I mean, if there are many politicians with much more serious offences on their hands that sit quietly in Rome’s parliament (instead of being locked up in jail), are they really going to throw a 19 year-old gypsy girl in jail for 3 months. I mean, really, in Italy?

No doubt the sudden impact of the new law in Florence has had a positive effect: the window washers have completely disappeared (one town has resolved the problem by dismantling 30 traffic lights and replacing them with convenient roundabouts!). Alas, like many things in Italy, once a law is passed, things will go back to being “normal”, and drivers will be again bothered with window washers. An example? Awhile ago, the government under Berlusconi came up with the point system for one’s driver's license. You drive while talking on your mobile phone and you get points deducted (everyone starts with 20 points). Ditto if you drive without your seat belt and other offences. Well, want to know just how many Italians (even in tiny and law-abiding Udine) still drive while talking on their mobile phones (and sometimes right under the noses of the cops)?

Monday, August 20, 2007

Will Italy ever be a “normal” country?

For my Italian friends out there: a letter from a gentleman (an Italian) in La Repubblica’s letters’ section (19/08/07). You get a good feel of the country by reading the many letters that average Italian citizens send to their local and national papers. You arrive at the conclusion (at least I did years ago) that while Italy may be a “beautiful” country it is by far a “great" country.

“Ageeb tra tutti I paesi preferisce l’Italia…”

Qualche giorno fa, sulla spiaggia dello stabilimento balneare dove trascorro le vacanze, ho fatto la conoscenza di Ageeb, un simpatico venditore ambulante senegalese. Vedendolo abbastanza provato da caldo e fatica, l'ho invitato a sedersi per prendere fiato. E ho ascoltato la sua storia. Ho così scoperto che Ageeb e' un migrante di lungo corso che oltre il senegalese parla decentemente 4 lingue e che nella vita ha viaggiato molto vivendo in tanti paesi.

Alla mia domanda su quale paese l’avesse accolto meglio ha risposto senza esitazioni: l'Italia. Così, sulle prime, ho pensato che forse siamo un popolo più tollerante di quanto sembri, memori di un paese di santi, poeti, navigatori e migranti, e mi sono prematuramente inorgoglito. In realtà Ageeb mi ha spiegato che si trovava più a suo agio nel nostro bel paese perché i controlli fatti nei suoi confronti sono molto meno "asfissianti", "la merce raramente gli viene sequestrata" e "praticamente mai gli e' capitato di vedersi consegnare il foglio di via", diversamente da quanto gli era accaduto nel resto d'Europa, dove aveva trovato forze dell'ordine che sembrano "ossessionate" dal rispetto delle regole e dal senso della legalità (my note: like Canada perhaps or England or Germany??).

E d’altra parte, cosa possiamo aspettarci? Il nostro paese e’ ammorbato da un senso di illegalità diffusa, al confronto della quale Ageeb e le sue vendite taroccata mi sembrano francamente il male minore. Come possiamo pretendere il rispetto della legalità da persone che spesso vengono nel nostro paese con "le viscere in mano", se siamo il paese dell'evasione fiscale, dei falsi bilanci, dell'assenteismo, del lavoro nero, dove spesso il peggiore esempio viene dai membri della nostra classe dirigente?

I was 16 and worked part-time in Winnipeg at the local Safeway grocery store. I was a bagger and was making a whopping 3.30 (Canadian) an hour. Those were really big bucks back then for a teenager. I had my regular pay stub with my tax and pension deductions. This was only 32 years ago. My father instead, upon arrival in Winnipeg from Italy (and with an immigrant visa in his pocket from the Canadian Consulate-General in Milan) worked as a bricklayer prior to working as a physiotherapist. He and other immigrant workers were regularly paid and all had a legal contract. This was roughly 1956, some 51 years ago.

In Italy instead, in 2007, they’re still talking about foreign labourers who work “under the table” and with absolutely no rights such as insurance and healthcare benefits. These same workers usually perish at construction sites. And soccer, Italy’s so-called “national sport”? Well, actually, it’s tax evasion the favourite pastime of millions of Italians (Italy’s highways and decrypt hospitals would be amongst the world’s finest if all “law-abiding” Italians were to pay their taxes, instead the Salerno-Reggio Calabria highway, perhaps not more than 300 kms long, is perpetually under construction and the summer-time line-ups are "Dantesque" in nature. I drove on several occasions the Trans-Canada highway from Winnipeg all the way to Montréal. We’re talking about some 2,500 kms, more or less. Never once did I see or hear about parts of the T-C under perpetual repair. And were only talking about a highway that spans the 2nd largest country in the entire world!) .

Will Italy ever be a “normal” country (like Canada perhaps or England or Germany)? I doubt it very much…

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Robert Plant, Lignano July 21st, 2007

So, do you know many 59 year-olds out there that can make 20 year-old kids go wild with songs that were written when they weren’t even born? Well, that’s the effect that Robert Anthony Plant, the former lead singer of the world’s greatest (live) rock’n’roll band of the 1970s had last night on about 2,000 people in the tiny arena located in the sea-side resort of Lignano, not too far away from Udine (something else to think that he, Page, Jones and Bonham not only were once part of that great 1973 documentary-film, “The Song Remains The Same" but that on more than one occasion they also sang in one of the world’s greatest indoor arenas, Madison Square Garden!).

I saw Plant 2 years ago in Pordenone. His band back then was pretty well the same one that he used this time round (but Plant with a couple of fewer kilos this time!). And yes, his traditional bushy lion-like mane of blonde hair was also the same as it’s always been since the glorious days of Led Zeppelin when he’d strut around the stage with his shirt wide open.

Half his tunes were in fact from the Zep era, much to the joy of this correspondent and the others present. Some included “Black Dog”, the beautiful ballad “Going To California” and one of my all-time favourite Zep songs, "Gallows Pole"! He concluded, as he did 2 years ago and 4 years ago in Rome (this was the 4th time for me to see Plant, the first back in Montréal in the late 1980s. He was on stage that night with another late, great artist, Stevie Ray Vaughan!) with Zep's epic, “Whole Lotta Love”. He played for about 90 minutes, more or less.

Personally-speaking, the voice was still there, even though with Whole Lotta Love he did a sort of re-mix of the song, sprinkling it here and there with some other tunes within the song itself. And at close to 60 years of age he honestly seemed to have gotten a big turn-on to see those below the stage going bonkers over some of his old tunes!

There’s been talk in the air of him and the other 2 surviving members of the band of getting together for a reunion in honour of the founding member of their record label, Atlantic (with quite possibly Jason Bonhan on drums). Every time I leave a Plant concert I wish I had in some way or the other the power to convince him to get back with his old band. I kept on looking at him and saying to myself, “It would no doubt be THE greatest world tour of the last 20 years!” The voice is still there and as we’ve seen lately, there’s a revival of "old-timers” out there, such as the Police and Genesis. The time would be perfect for them to reunite for one gigantic world tour.

Only one tiny sad note if we can call it that: after the concert we went for a couple of beers right in front of the arena. At 2 am as we headed out of the pub there in front of us was Plant’s long tour bus (with a semi-truck in tow) leaving for his next gig in nearby Slovenia. We looked at the dark-tinted windows and thought, “Here was a man who together with his three buddies would travel the world aboard a Boeing 737 jet with the words “Led Zeppelin” written on the sides and here he was instead going off on a tour bus"! Strange how life can be at times...

One can only dream though of hopefully one day seeing Plant next to Page as they play their last, epic and magnificent encore, “Stairway To Heaven”. At that point, all of us can then go in peace to rock’n’roll heaven (all pics by M. Rimati)!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Oh, why don’t you all just!

Anyone remember Monty Python’s epic film, “Life of Brian”? I think it had come out in 1978 (circa) and had been deemed to be rather blasphemous in nature by the Vatican (George Harrison, a great Python fan, had produced the movie and had actually appeared in it momentarily).

There’s one of my favourite scenes in the movie (and my father’s too). It shows Brian, who is played by the late, great Graham
Chapman, who is desperately running away from the faithful followers, led by that other magnificent actor, Mr. Silly Walks himself, John Cleese, who erroneously believes that Brian is the real messiah. After having fallen into a pit and having stomped down on the foot of a poor hermit, Brian pleads with the followers to bugger off. At one point he looks at them and yells, “Why don’t you all just fuck-off”! Cleese, not at all perturbed, no doubt stuns the Vatican back in Rome and says, “And how shall we fuck-off, oh Lord”? Indeed a priceless scene.

As blasphemous as it was back then, the Cassation court of Italy just handed down a (bizarre) ruling yesterday: that saying “fuck-off” to someone should not longer be regarded as an offence! The court’s reasoning is that the word (vaffanculo) has entered the Italian lexicon for quite some time now and shouldn’t really be regarded as a major swear word. A few years ago a report concluded that Italian youth are amongst the rudest in all of Europe (thanks also to Italian tv which doesn’t “beep” out swear words during prime time), so no doubt this new ruling will only make matters worse.

Just imagine the scenario: a young church-goer is being confessed for her sins. She doesn’t agree with the priest’s penance, and so out of the blue from the confessional yells out, “Oh why don’t you just fuck-off”!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Genesis, the “Turn It On Again Tour”, Circus Maximus, July 14th, 2007

About one year ago I was at the famous Circus Maximus for Italy’s victory in the 2006 World Cup final against France (at one point during the chariot races 2,000 years ago there had been up to 300,000 spectators at the C.M. The emperors after the shows would also pay a visit to the whores in the houses located right next to the C.M.!). Six years ago I had again been at the C.M. for Roma’s epic “scudetto” soccer victory. In the former case they say there were about 500,000 people whereas in the latter case there were about 1 million people. And exactly 10 years after Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford, Ray Wilson and the “new” Genesis, I would again be at the C.M. for Telecom Italia’s fifth free concert with Genesis, this time complete with Banks, Rutherford and Phil Collins (but no Peter Gabriel).

Some 500,000 people apparently turned up for the show. I was lucky this time as we had tickets in the VIP section, so I got to at least sit on a small table to take pics and to film the entire show (the previous four shows have meant standing for an incredible amount of hours breaking my herniated back!).

The show lasted more than two hours with about twenty-four songs. They opened with “Behind the Lines”, followed by “Duke’s End” and then one of my favourite, “Turn It On Again”. While I profess to not be THE world’s greatest Genesis aficionado, it was nevertheless nice to hear some of the golden oldies such as “In the Cage” and “Domino”. The last two encores were “I Can’t Dance” and “Carpet Crawlers”, no doubt a fav of die-hard Genesis fans. While not a Genesis song per se, I was nevertheless hoping for “Sussudio” as a closing song which would have brought down whatever’s left of the old C.M. (which is not much).

The dream I think of everyone there was that Gabriel would join his three buddies on stage. Unfortunately, no such luck. There’s talk that perhaps two years from now they might team up again. Unlike the four previous editions (Sir Paul McCartney, Simon&Garfunkel, Sir Elton John and both Bryan Adams and Billy Joel together), the show was at the C.M. just because of the massive size of Genesis’s stage (the other four were held right in front of the Coliseum, a hop, skip and a jump from the C.M.): a stage 64 metres long and with a height of some 29 metres plus 90 million small LED lights. The screen was 54 metres wide and 12 metres high. Some 18 semi-trucks were required to haul the material around. Collins? In splendid form, both with his voice and with his drumming, especially with Frank Zappa’s former drummer, Chester Thompson (for this modest drummer, a real treat to hear the both on their “Drum Duet”).

The concert was also special for Rome fans as Genesis concluded their European tour in the Eternal City. There next conquest is now North America (all pics by M. Rimati).