Occasionally, I have to really sit and think hard about how the day started, the memory banks being what they are and all that. This was one of those days.
Breakfast in Milano was in-room and once diary duties were out of the way, my mission was to head out and about and maybe find a supermarket for some good old fashioned Parmiggiano. It’s become tradition for me. Yes, you can get it in the UK but it’s never quite as good as it is here and if it is, it’s ridiculously expensive. In a mercenary attempt to fleece customers, supermarkets in the UK have started packaging Parmiggiano cheese in packets which make it look like you’re getting more than you actually are. I know because Leon, my son works at Sainsbury’s, so we shop there quite a lot and you get to know their dastardly tricks. I’m not having any of it.
The day was hot and shorts were in order together with minimal footwear. Flip-flops on, camera secured, I headed out. The streets were rammed with queues of Italians outside every gelateria for what I assumed were after-lunch desserts. Even though I wanted one, the wait assisted my resistance. I thought you only saw queues like these in the UK.
Part of me wanted to come across a camera shop selling second hand lenses as I am now armed with a new camera. The Canon 6D. My spirited attempt to explore the world of full-frame photography. It’s quite a piece of kit but I need lenses as only my prime EF 35mm fits. My trusty Sigma 10-20mm F4-5.6 EX DC HSM is sadly now incompatible. The 6D is currently being put to very good use as I’m working on a small end of tour project which I can’t say anything about just yet. Stay tuned to the diaries for more about that.
Back at the hotel I cooled down whilst packing for the rest of the day. Gunther and his team of drivers took us to Malpensa outside of Milan and we cleared security and headed out to the plane. Gunther then returned to the hotel and collected our luggage and drove it to Rome! That’s an 8 hour drive. Whilst they were doing that, we flew to Venice (Liz was back on board and served up the Caesar salads which tided us over until we arrived at the venue and attacked the catering area) where Bernie’s team waited and collected us for the drive to the small town of Piazzola sul Brenta, near Padova. We pulled into the old town and wound our way to the square and found the backstage area. These outdoor shows are tough for the crew as they have the added worry of the direct heat of the sun on the equipment. It’s all very well playing the show in the cooler night time conditions (only just) but the gear has to be set up and that has to be done during the day. As we head further South and I can honestly say that we are now in the 100% sun zone of the tour, it gets VERY hot. The sun-starved Brits are grateful but the only time they get to enjoy the sunshine is after dinner. Jules told me that some of the crew did get out on a boat in Locarno on their day off, I saw the pics and beautiful it was.
The Catering room…
George’s classic salad bar today…
THAT Sea Bass
Catering was next up. Chris, Dave and Georgie were back! The menu today was as staggering as ever. What these guys do with the produce available in Italy is to be relished. The highlight today was a Sea Bass dish cooked on the plate. So simple, it just seemed all too good. He sliced the fillets thinly and arranged on a plate and put in the oven for 1 and a half minutes. Then he sprinkled cut Basil and fresh de-seeded tomatoes over it with a generous slosh of Olive Oil. All I can say is WOW. A revolution in Sea Bass. The next fish I catch at home is destined for this hot plate. Of course I didn’t leave it there as the other guys were raving about Chris’s Spaghetti Carbonara. I had to have some. It was equally WOW. I was just about to grab the camera and head back to the recovery tent when I spotted a freshly made Tiramisu. Now I’m a total sucker for this dish and since Dave had made it and we were in Italy, it simply HAD to be done. Yes, you guessed it…WOW.
Mike in recovery mode…
Thankfully, there was plenty of time to allow the food to settle as showtime was scheduled for 9:30pm. Back in the beautifully presented, air conditioned, portakabin dressing rooms we relaxed and digested.
Throughout July, the calendar of the concerts at the Hydrogen Festival Piazzola sul Brenta is held in the beautiful scenery of the amphitheater of Villa Contarini Camerini, a stunning and magnificent example of a Venetian villa. Show time was soon upon us and the packed crowd were deemed ready by 9:35pm. We took to the stage and proceeded to play a very relaxed show with many highlights. It was what we call our ‘full production’ (our own PA and Lights) tonight and you could tell. The sound on-stage was delicious. At the end of the song before the last song of the set (you know what I mean) there was the usual stage-rush although somewhat muted. The first few rows of the seated audience were not amused and stood up and complained vehemently to the security who of course had been briefed by us that we don’t mind the stage-rush. Thankfully, security saw sense and made everyone return to their seats and a riot was averted. We finished the set and when we returned for the encores, EVERYONE was standing.
We all had a ball, as we have done on EVERY show of this tour and we soon found ourselves in the back of Bernies car heading back to Venice airport. Whilst the crew no doubt sweated and stripped the stage bare and loaded up the trucks for their journey down to Rome, we stepped on board the jet and Liz was ready and waiting with plates of Italian ribs and salads. It’s all you can do to resist, so I didn’t. A few glasses of wine and I was ready for bed. Not so fast..
An hour later at 1:30am, we touched down in a very humid Rome airport and boarded a waiting bus which took us to a ‘normal’ airport terminal where a late-night plane-load of recently unloaded EasyJet passengers waited glum-faced for their baggage to be unceremoniously dumped onto a stationary carousel. A confused and tired Gunther and team waited outside in the Range Rovers and we were all glad to be on board. Half an hour later, we arrived at another of our favourite hotels on any tour, the Hotel du Russie. We were glad to find our rooms and fall onto a perfect bed.
E ‘così bello essere di nuovo in Italia.