Book Excerpt: Verona, Italy

Look inside the book This All Encompassing Trip. Here is an excerpt from page 301 to 303 from chapter 35 – The Italian Tour, more specifically the unforgettable show at the Arena di Verona.

chapter 35: The Italian Tour

September 14 – 20, 2006 » Show 41, 42, 43, 44 & 45
Bologna, Verona, Milan, Torino, and Pistoia, Italy

…..Only a few blocks down the road, I approach the Hotel Siena, a cheap two star hotel fitting just within our budget. The front desk advises me of the room number and I find Monica in the midst of waking up from a nap. I drop my bags and suggest we grab a drink to catch up and cool off, as her familiar smile is warming me up inside. On the way back to the café, she tells me about her adventures when she arrived the previous day. As we join the party, the waiter asks if we want the large size beer to which we reply, “Si. Grazie!” When he returns, our eyes open in amazement at the two enormous mugs of beer that he’s carrying. Each glass is one litre in size and everyone has one for themselves. This could get dangerous. So after we finish our beer close to an hour later, Monica and I decide to scope out the city.

Verona is a lovely town in an almost fairytale-like way. The streets are laid out in cobble stone and are as narrow as the city is small, with most of the paths being pedestrian only. There’s definitely a romantic feel to this place, situated two hours west of its more popular neighbour, Venice, and it’s not just because of its ties to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The charming architecture outlines elegant piazzas made up of delightful gardens and bold statues. Around the corner, we spot the famous Juliet’s Balcony and in front of it, her statue, where tourists rub her breast for good luck. With Monica having an extra day of experience in the city, she leads me around until we eventually end up back at the arena. We are craving pizza.

“What are your plans after this show?” Monica asks.

“I’m not sure,” I reply. “I might do the next few shows but I’ll be in Italy regardless, and then I’ll be meeting Cali Joe in Munich for Oktoberfest.”

After dinner, we walk back toward the first café and the gang is still hanging out, so I give the waiter a nod for a couple more monstrous beers. Stian asks that I smell his arm pit, to which I assume that he had the opportunity to shower up. Smiling profusely, he claims that he now possesses the scent of a rose, but I guess anyone would be happy feeling clean for the first time in four days and holding a litre of beer in his hand.

The crowd is now much bigger, with a number of other fans also assembling around us. As the night progresses, more and more people arrive at the scene, all of whom are Pearl Jam fans going to the show tomorrow. I guess the word got out about this place and its extravagant beverages because the population of the area expands every time I finish a drink. Soon the entire outdoor patio is completely filled with Pearl Jam fans, probably close to 100 of us in total, spilling over to the café next door as well. Pulling out my video camera, I wander around to find out who everyone is. I start with two guys from Norway.

“We walked around and it was really loud and noisy over here,” one of them explains. “We saw people with Pearl Jam shirts and they were singing, so we went to get some money and came to sit down here because here is where we belong. Here we are with friends.

“It’s the best fans in the world,” the other adds. “No question about it.”

Continuing on with the filming, I get a wave from a table from the rival Scandinavian country of Sweden. They’re Johan, Petter, and Ida, all of whom don’t look a day past 18 but are catching up in concert experience already, with 11 shows planned for their first Pearl Jam tour. I ask them why.

“We’ve seen them on DVD,” Petter explains. “Seen Touring Van too, so nice meet you.”

“Nice to meet you guys,” I smirk.

Pearl Jam Verona 2006

Over at the other end of the patio is a large table hosting 12 fans from The Netherlands. I joke around with them for a bit, as they’re in good spirits, before retreating back to my seat for another round of drinks, when I’m waved down by two guys in kilts who are obviously from Scotland – Neil and Fraser.

“Arena di Verona,” Fraser announces. “This is it. This is the one to see.”

When I return to my seat, there’s a gigantic beer with my name on it, so I salute everyone at my table. This is like no other pre-party that I’ve been to before, where many fans would generally hang out in their own cliques. Here, there’s convergence amongst everyone and the show isn’t even tonight. Countless litres of beer are consumed, many stories are exchanged, and numerous songs are sung including a combined effort on a chant normally heard at soccer stadiums. “Ole, ole ole ole, Pearl Jam, Pearl Jam. Ole, ole ole ole, Pearl Jam, Pearl Jam,” everyone belts out at the top of their lungs.

Amongst all of the drunkenness, Monica suggests that we do the rest of the Italian shows and then Prague, if she can find a cheap flight home to replace her already booked return flight that leaves from Milan in a few days. I assure her that she’ll have no problems, so we salute the idea and finish our drinks. When the café officially closes, the bill needs to be sorted out, a task put squarely on the shoulders of Barbara and myself. We start collecting Euros by the hundreds from everyone at our table, and then I throw in a few more Euros to tip the waiter, who thanks us generously. From there, we stumble around to another bar, where more drunken shenanigans occur until Monica and I decide to leave before sunrise and climb into our beds at 6:00am.

At 10:00am we manage to check out on time. Hitting an internet café, Monica explores her options for flight changes, but any possibilities she finds cost upwards of $1500 extra. The same result is found at the actual office of her airline. I recommend just throwing the ticket away and I’ll be able to find something to book for much cheaper. She trusts me and we continue on with our day. Returning to the soccer stadium, we head to the bus to see if there are any vacancies for tonight, but there isn’t. No problem. We return back to our hotel to see if there are any more rooms available, but there aren’t. Problem. We decide not to worry about it and head to the main strip, where we spot the 2 Norwegians from last night continuing where they left off. They offer to store our bags in their hotel room while we figure things out, so we accept.

Returning to the café, we see a few more hung over people reappearing in the exact same spots as before. And despite their rough lethargic state, they’re back on the beers, only at a slower pace. The Scots explain that they slept outside with their kilt wrapped around themselves because apparently this is the way they use to do it in the old days on the mountains. As the afternoon goes on, almost everyone has returned to their spots from last night. In front of the arena, there’s a large lineup to pick up Ten Club tickets but no movement. The tickets are late, but with tonight’s show being the only reserve seating show of the tour instead of general admission, it’s not a big deal…..

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Check out some of our images from this amazing atmosphere from the magical town or Verona, Italy when Pearl Jam played there in 2006.

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