“Curiosity killed the cat” says the proverb but for me active curiosity is an essential of travel. Most of my adventures have involved wandering around following my nose, or serendipity if you want a fancy label, rather than a grand plan. And that’s exactly how I ended up in fair Verona last May watching Tiziano Ferro in concert.
It all started in Siena when I was at language school in 2008. I used to do my homework with Italian TV on in the background and happened to catch a snippet of a song that got stuck in my head.
And that could have been the end of the story but I started to hear the same song played everywhere so that it ended up being a bit of a soundtrack to my holiday. I was curious. Who was Tiziano Ferro?
I decided to buy his CD as a holiday souvenir. It was a mix of R&B and pop and although I didn’t understand the lyrics my Italian teacher suggested I learn them as a way to improve my Italian comprehension and pronunciation as I sang along! My poor neighbours!!
Fast forward to 2011. Tiziano had become Italy’s pop sweetheart and had just announced a European tour. I was in the middle of planning my next trip and wondered what an Italian gig would be like? Would it be the same as a British one? Would the crowd be different? Would I be able to understand enough Italian? There was only one way to find out!
I was curious to try somewhere I’d not been before and noticed that Tiziano was playing in Verona, home of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. I’d always wanted to see the world famous roman arena in the heart of the city and to search out the young lovers along the banks of the River Adige. Bingo! Or “tombola” as Italians would say!
May 2012 turned out to be a perfect time to explore Verona in the early summer sun. The city is a wonderful mix of old and new dating back beyond ancient Roman times with one of the most intact amphitheatres in the world. The modern city is a designated UNESCO world heritage site with a colourful history, opera festival and lively atmosphere. It is an undiscovered gem of northern Italy and well worth a visit. The arena itself is impossible to miss as it sits in the main square, Piazza Bra, slap bang in the centre of the city. It is a perfect venue originally hosting gladiatorial games in the 1st century AD and more recently home to the opera festival each summer. These days it seats around 15,000 on a mix of modern seating and original stone steps and forms a spectacular backdrop for gigs.
So do Italians do it differently? Well yes and no. Unlike British gigs, there were no ticket touts in evidence or street vendors foisting cheap T-shirts or flashing deely-boopers. Once inside the arena, there were dozens of ushers to help you get to your seat. The crowd was a much broader demographic mix than you might expect at a UK gig, with lots more couples, whole families and a much wider age range. And fresh popcorn toasted in front of you seemed to be more popular than the bar which all combined to create a very friendly, welcoming atmosphere. I needn’t have been nervous!
As the arena gradually filled up, the warm summer sun gave way to a star-studded night-sky which cloaked the stage just as the opening bars of the first track and title of the tour, “L’amore e’ una cosa semplice”, ( Love is a simple thing ), began.
Tiziano treated us to over two hours of hits from the last ten years plus his new album backed by an international band, massive video screens and 15,000 of us as backing singers! To think that a chance glimpse of a video on TV five years earlier had brought me to this. Not only that but I finally got to see that original song, Alla mia eta’ ( At my age ), sung live with all the passion and emotional fragility that I now know the lyrics represent.
“The end will arrive, but it will not be the end” sang Tiziano as his final encore, La Fine, (The End ), drew the concert to a close. And its certainly not the end for me as my curiosity continues to lead me to other Italian artists and more adventures. I’ve even got another concert booked so I’ll be exploring Bologna next to the soundtrack of Lorenzo Jovanotti’s music! Where will your curiosity take you next?