At precisely 5:45 this morning the heavy trash collection trucks began rumbling down the piazza and emptying dumpsters. Shortly after that work began dismantling yesterday's booths of festivity in the square. All this right outside my window, of course. We usually get rooms that face the inside of the hotel; often looking into a shaft between buildings - lousy views but wonderfully free of traffic and other noises. It didn't occur to me when we checked in and my room overlooked the picturesque piazza that it might be a signal to change dorms and now, with less than three hours sleep, it's the only thing I can think of. Well, I simply toughed it out, never did get back to sleep, practiced for a few hours until ordering some coffee, toast and jam and committing to the day which meant shower, pack and leave Florence for Roma.
I've spent a little time in Rome the last couple of years. Having taken part in the Pensa Day festivities, we usually end up here for the last couple of days and the city feels like home when I come to her now. The warm Italian sun and blue skies, the million Piaggio and Vespa scooters weaving in and out of traffic and the Roman ruins, not just the famous ones, but unexpected ancient buildings on the way in from the airport, all welcome us to Roma. What one conveniently forgets is the staggering and chaotic traffic with the drivers aggressive and audacious. It took about an hour to get to our hotel in the city centre from the airport, skillfully navigated by Ike. By then it was mid-afternoon and, with a couple of hours free before going to the venue, I thought I'd try to get the upper hand on sleep. No luck.
Tonight's coloseum is the Palalottomatica, a real mouthful and eyesore. Built in the swinging 60's it's a round, domed concrete thing - large, dirty, reverberant and the site of hundreds of rock shows over the years. A couple of generations of Romans have grown up coming to this place. The show is also being sent out live tonight on Italian radio. Leave it to our ace sound man and miracle worker Robert Collins to whip this sonic ship into shape. He's the best in the business. A couple of friends told me later that, being among those who had grown up seeing shows there, tonight's was hands down the best the old place has ever sounded. Hats off to Robert. The Palalottomatica looks much larger from the outside than from within and it was a capacity crowd of 5,500, floor standing, seated back and sides that exploded in a roar that was deafening from back stage as we came up to begin the show. It was a real rocker from top to bottom, MK and band on top form in spite of feeling a little ragged. DJfletch who doesn't play on Sultans, left the stage and went to one of our cars and listened to a bit of it on the radio, said it sounded fab. These are the performances you live for.
After the show Glenn W. and I joined Marco and Francesca Caviglia, Valerio and Letezia Barbantini, Rudy Pensa and Drago Vidakovic for a stunning dinner at Ristorante Lagana. Our host and owner Mimmo kept the place open especially for us as we didn't arrive until shortly after mid-night. A small, unassuming place quietly tucked away down a side street in downtown Rome. I've spent several brilliant evenings here in the same company and was pleased to introduce Glenn to Lagana as well. I could never begin to describe how good the food tastes, but a small sampling of what we ate follows: prosciutto, cantaloupe, creamy white, buffalo mozzarella, breaded and sauteed fresh sardines, bean salad, focaccia, sauteed baby zucchini, prawns marinated in lime and that was only the beginning. For the main course I had a beautiful pasta with porcino mushrooms and olive oil, all washed down with a delicious, soft, Italian, red wine. For dessert it was a whipped citrus sorbet served in champagne glasses and sipped! Fresh, small strawberries about the size of a bean and blackberries topped with vanilla ice creme, dessert wine and after dinner drinks followed. Ristorante Lagana at Via dell'Orso,44 is one of the great restaurants of the world, not loudly trumpeted but a quiet and treasured secret for those who know.
It was a day that began severely and ended sublimely.