Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The White Night

A balloon dress one store made to celebrate La Notte Bianca
"Travel is more than the seeing of sights...."
~ Miriam Beard

"Uh, oh," I said to Mike on Monday, "it looks like they're going to have some of the festival exhibits on the street outside the flat tomorrow and Wednesday."

"That should be good," he replied. "We can watch from the window."

"Watching from the window isn't the problem. They're going to have music." There was a big party in the art gallery downstairs over the weekend, and the musicians put speakers on the street, so we heard music for hours. Loud music. LOUD DRUMS. POUNDING DRUMS. "It's scheduled to go until 12:31," I continued.

"So they'll be done before lunch," he said to me. I rolled my eyes (Do you notice I do that a lot?).

That's 12:31 AM.... MORNING."

"Oh. That could be a problem." I rolled, well, you get my drift.

One of the acts
This week's festival (There was one last week, too.) was La Notte Bianca (The White Night), a celebration of the arts. The original White Night started in St. Petersburg, Russia, and has spread to cities all over the world. In addition to painting and such, The White Night celebrates all of the arts, music, performance, writing, etc. The Spoleto Notte Bianca coincided with today's national holiday in celebration of International Labor Day (In other words, no school today meant kids could be out late last night.)

The exhibitors finished setting up by 2:00 yesterday, and by 4 or so, musicians started performing in the street that dead-ends into our building. The music itself wasn't bad at all, and I would have enjoyed it more had the musician a) lessened the bass a little bit, and b) played more than 10 notes over and over. Luckily, by the time we headed to dinner at 6:00, a guitarist replaced the synthesizer musician.

We headed to Ristorante del Mercato, a restaurant close to the salumeria that our friend Aurelio owns. As we neared the piazza, we heard music coming from there and saw a huge commotion in the open area.

Dinner music

"There's something going on here, too," I said. People in the piazza were watching a juggler and listening to Spoletina music while two gymnasts wound a long, red length of cloth over a very high. metal contraption (See photo).

"I wonder if they're going to do a Cirque-type act," Steph said.

"That's probably a good guess," Bob allowed.

We walked through the exhibits, crowd-watched and listened to the music for a bit since we were early for dinner. (I don't want to get into it here, but most European restaurants don't open until 7:00 or 7:30 for dinner. They think we're nuts for eating earlier....That's another story, though.) Around 6:30 or so, I noticed that the restaurant was open (probably to accommodate the festival crowd), and wee took seats on the patio.

Throughout dinner, we could hear the music and see a little of the performances. A loud scream coming from the female gymnast who had climbed to the top of the apparatus made all four of u jump at once.

"What the hell was that?" I exclaimed.

The male gymnast setting up the apparatus
"Did she fall?" someone else asked as a second and third scream permeated the early evening. We all looked at the large apparatus and saw the two gymnasts performing. Apparently, earth-shattering screams are part of the routine because she kept it up for more than 10 minutes.

After dinner, we walked back towards the apartments and decided to go to Piazza Garibaldi to see what was going on there. Corso Garibaldi (the street our flats are on and that ends in that particular piazza) was a river of people. In the middle of it, a number of people were doing a tai chi performance. A little way down, another group was doing shiatsu massages/

"Do you want a massage?" Mike asked me.

"Hmph." I knew he was joking. The people doing the massages had set up a small tent, and under it they had laid a sheet on the cobblestone corso. In their defense, they did have two pillows into which the massag-ee could put his or her face while being kneaded and pounded. Nonetheless, there was no way anyone would get me down there with just a thin sheet between me and the pavement (and bugs). Apparently a lot of people felt that way because I never did see anyone partaking of the free service.

We heard the pounding music as we reached the piazza, and up on a stage in front of the church were about 20 or so break-dancers. We watched for a bit and headed back to the flats.

"If you ever told me that I'd be in the middle of a small town in Italy watching break-dancers," Bob laughed, "I'd tell you you were nuts." Tell me about it.

The clown's performance  from our window
A little after we got back to our flat, Mike and I heard twinkling music rising from the street just below our window. The music increased in volume, and the crowd's laughter and clapping finally drew me to the window when I heard "Should I stay or should I go now?" (By Clash) There was a clown below doing tricks and various routines.  Mike and I leaned out of the window and watched for a bit.

"I wanted to float a Kleenex down on him," Mike told me once we closed the window.

"You didn't," I said hopeful that he had not done it.

"No, I didn't. I said I wanted to do it, but I didn't want to distract from his routine." Distract from his routine, heck. Personally, I didn't want the clown throwing his skeleton puppet though our window.

The synthesizer guy started up right after the clown, and when we went to bed, the bass was still vibrating through the thick walls of this place. I looked for cracks when I got up this morning and was happy to see the flat still in one piece.

The crowd watching the clown last night

The festival continued today, although most of the music and performances took place during the day. Mike and I walked around Spoleto for a bit this afternoon, and while we had cappuccini in Piazza del Mercato, we watched a group of musicians and dancers perform while the screaming gymnast and her partner set up for their "SPECTACULAR ROUTINE @ 16:30!! The dancers were really doing karate-type moves to the music, and the musicians played and sang the same 10-15 notes and words the entire time. The left the piazza before we did, and as we walked by Piazza Liberta about 30 minutes later, we saw them performing the same routine (and music) there.

As we neared our flat, we saw a crowd gathered under our window again and heard the tinkling music and "Should I stay or should I go now?" The clown, who had been performing as we left the flat, was there once again performing the same routine. We watched him on street level for a time and ent upstairs.

Not too long after, we heard drumming again and the same music that the karate/dancers performed to. I looked out the window and watched them perform from that angle. It didn't look much different.

"Their moves look so fake," I said to Mike.

"They're not really doing karate," he replied. "If they were really using it to defend themselves, it would be realistic."

The musicians perform for the karate/dancers (kneeling)

"It looks so fake," I repeated. It looked fake. What more can I say? Oh, I know. LEARN ANOTHER SONG.

Not long after the karate dancers stopped, we heard cymbals crashing and drums (Again with the drums) pounding. People screamed. I looked out of the window and saw a Chinese dragon wending its way along the street. Little kids danced all around it. It was actually cute (if you get rid of the pounding), although I couldn't figure out what the heck a Chinese dragon was doing in the middle of an Italian town. (No, there are not Chinese who live in Spoleto.)
The clown from street level

As we sat to eat dinner, we heard the tinkling music and "Should I stay or should I go now?" yet again. The clown was back. Let me just say this: In the time between 3 and 9 tonight, he performed below our flat about five times. I can now fill in for him if he ever gets sick and needs a sub. . . and I never again want to hear "Should I stay or should I go now? or that tinkling music he played for other parts of his routine....or the music of the karate/dancers.... or the synthesizer guy.

I started writing this at 9:00 pm our time, and the musicians and performers were starting to clear
out. It had started raining a bit, but I think it was because they all have to go to school tomorrow. It makes me sad because in a way it was so great to watch the community get together and have fun together. People of all ages enjoyed each other and the performances and the fun (and the gelato, but that's another story).

I am glad, though, that we won't be serenaded as we try to sleep tonight.

Coming soon: Adventures in Hygienic Services

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