They are thronging around the ancient Arena which dominates this end of the old walled city adjacent Piazza Bra. The Arena is huge, equal to the size of many modern sports stadiums. It’s a four story high oval of Roman brick and stone. It’s beautiful arches glow soft and warm cream and orange in the evening light.
I come upon it unexpectedly even though I am intending to find it before I leave for the evening. My pathway towards where I think it should be has taken me in a series of zig zags but eventually they have meandered me to the right place. I sense it before I see it. There are voices and some singing. Suddenly I am on the edge of a large crowd with the arena towering above me. There is a concert here tonight apparently.
In summer a series of operas is staged her but this is not an opera crowd. There are no fur stoles, no black dresses. This is a T-shirt concert and the audience is young. I look for signage but see none. I step closer and gain a vantage point overlooking the crowd who are gathered in crushing queues waiting for the gates to open. There is a young girl leading the crowd in song to fill the time.
“Michelle…..” and then “Love love me do ….”. she’s leading a medley of songs from the 60s. The young girl is in her twenties but she produces song after song.
‘Who’s performing?’ I ask a middle aged man standing next to me. ‘For the first time in 27 years’ he informs me ‘Paul McCartney has returned.’ In this country of Catholics the Pope (El Papa) could not hope for a more adoring crowd. I suggest to my new friend that these young people were born well after the Beatles era, well after John Lennon was killed, after Linda McCartney died. The crowd has now begun to sing the soundtrack to A Hard Days Night.
‘Yes’, he agrees. ‘It’s great. ‘His concert attracts all generations, young people and parents alongside each other.’ ‘And grandparents’ I suggest.
They’re a well behaved crowd. No soccer hooligans, no tanked up young people heading out for a night in the clubs on the booze. They are content to wait patiently, in their rain ponchos - there are storm clouds hovering and the Romans neglected to roof the Arena.
They sing their silly love songs, while I, a little envious, sit and eat my pizza romana with anchovies and lashings of mozzarella cheese and enjoy a glass of vino rosso from the sidelines.