3 Days in Rome February 2016

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At the end of February I went to Rome for three days. I’ve been there before but that was a flying visit when I played at a festival in Florence. The last time I went I wasn’t over impressed, which may sound odd and slightly absurd, but I was only there for about five hours. During that time I went on the open top tourist bus, visited the Trevi Fountain and had a meal. Then I hightailed it back to Florence on the high speed train. Because the city didn’t look like it did in either of my favourite Rome films, Roman Holiday and La Dolce Vita, I was disappointed and, yes, I know I’m sounding a bit stupid and trivial but that’s the way it is. I wanted to be mown down by a million Vespas and Lambrettas and it didn’t happen! It didn’t fit in with my preconceptions of Rome. In my mind it should have been noisy and anarchic and that couldn’t have been further from the truth. It is actually quite a relaxed and easy going place and nowhere near as big as I thought it was.

This time was an improvement and I became better acquainted with the more interesting aspects of the city and, apart from being attacked by a dog at one point that fortunately didn’t bite me but did shred my trousers, I had a really nice and interesting time. I had two whole days there which wasn’t enough to see everything but was enough to make me want to go back again.

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Trip to Rome Day One

 

The first day I visited the Spanish Steps which are nice but are being renovated at the moment and are fenced off, then I walked to the Vatican where I stumbled on a mass being given by the Pope! I wasn’t expecting this but I was amazed by the efficiency the crowd were exited at the end. Although there were thousands of people in the square there was no crush or panic. A real lesson in crowd control! It is interesting that the Vatican buildings are so well preserved that they almost look new i.e. recently built. Intriguing, I suppose to look old, buildings need to have evidence of decay, it’s not enough to actually be old!

Which leads on to the next part of my tour, the Coliseum. This definitely looks old. Most of it isn’t even there! Apparently the stones of the outer wall were used to build the Renaissance buildings of the Vatican and other parts of Rome. What we see is the mainly brick inner wall but it is still pretty impressive, as is the Triumphal Arch.

That night I went to an Open Mic at a bar called The Public House. Met some really nice people and played a few tunes on a borrowed guitar. It takes place every Wednesday night. They also sell really good cocktails.

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Trip to Rome Day Two

 

Day two was even more interesting I went to the Trevi Fountain and then walked along the Tiber to an interesting and dilapidated area of Rome called Testaccio. This is in the process of being regenerated but at the moment  is a fascinating mix of abandoned buildings, graffiti, a brilliant art gallery and ancient ruins. There are also people living and working there. A truly fascinating place as is the last place I went to, the Protestant Cemetry. This is where Romantic English poets Keats and Shelley are buried. I really love both of their work.They both died in their mid twenties within a year of each other. It is very evocative with some amazing sculptures and tombs. Again, well worth a visit.

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The Protestant Cemetery

All this walking wore me out so I spent my last few hours reading in the garden of the National Gallery. Very relaxing and a lovely and peaceful place to sit.

There’s so much more to see so I’ll be back soon no doubt. Next month I am visiting Paris to check out the live music scene.

Visit to Sicily October 2013

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In my quest to visit as many places as possible that I haven’t seen, I decided to go to Sicily, Italy in October, 2013. In case people out there think with all my travelling I’m rich!! I’m not!! My travels are achieved by finding low fares and staying in cheap hotels (most of the time!). I’m a jetsetter courtesy of Ryanair and Easyjet. I’ve become the master of the cheap deals.

As it turned out Sicily was an inspired choice. We stayed in a nice hotel in the centre of Palermo which is a fascinating city. It’s also surprisingly friendly (no Mafia jokes please) because it’s not too touristy. Mind you the driving in Palermo is possibly the craziest I’ve ever seen until I got used to it and realized that there was method in the madness! There is only one main rule and that is that you don’t stop for anything unless you really have to!! Ominously, as I drove around in a hire car, I realized that virtually every car on the island had a dent in it!! Still, I got through two weeks driving and only scraped a wheel on a kerb once which I got away with when it was checked at the end. Whew!!!

It really is very lovely but there is no way you can see the island in one visit. We stayed in Palermo and visited that side of the island including Cephalu and Agrigento. There are some great beaches that are pretty unspoilt or attached to fading old fashioned resorts. Very charming. The architecture ranges from jerrybuilt apartment blocks to remarkably preserved Greek temples. Erice is a picturesque town in the mountains with a well preserved castle. Monreale has a remarkable Norman cathedral that incorporates mosaics inspired by Islamic designs. Shows that even at the height of the Crusades they could learn things from each other. Quite astonishing really, and the weather was good most of the time. Also, Cephalu is a quaint old town with a beautiful beach where occultist Aleister Crowley had his headquarters until he was expelled by the Italians!

There was a bit of excitement while we were there. The riot police was out in force as a demonstration against austerity got out of hand. Very exciting!! The food was great, as you might expect. Palermo is incredibly varied with an area of posh designer shops and another that is still in ruins from the end of WW2. Will be back next year to explore some more. Here’s a gallery of pictures taken while I was there:

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“So Here I Am” a poem by Kenny Wilson

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so here I am in florence
connecting with the past
trying to find myself in a weird way
playing music in a strange land
full of cobwebs and fairies
that leap up at me and scare me
and wake me from my renaissance sleep

there is no past
only the present
where art screams from the river banks
and the railway lines
and I am lost again
my legs aching and my mind about to explode

i think I lost something here
and not my sanity
no
a weary contempt of the past
that did nothing but grind me down
and left me on the pavement
with nothing to think about
but oblivion and feelings of inadequacy

so here i am in florence