December 16-18 - Rome, Italy
A few days off now and time for some sightseeing and r&r before heading stateside. As usual, Rome is a pretty amazing place to spend your free time, though this time I enjoyed seeing Christmas decorations creeping up. The biggest displays of course seemed to be at St Peter's basillica in the Vatican, but.. they were still working on it before I left. I guess maybe they just really unveil things on Christmas itself? Not sure... but I did get to see a small festival at their Christmas tree one night, which seemed to feature and focus on people from the Ukraine. It seemed like every night might feature a different country/ethnic group as the Christmas tree's base was surrounded by quite a few translations of "Merry Christmas!" So, with that in mind.. time to head home. Till next time... Buon Natale to all!

Christmas comes to St Peter's square
A fountain, a tree, an obelisk

How the Vatican does choir miking

December 15, 2011 - Rome, Italy
Today we played once again at a school in Roma called the Highlands Institute. The students range I think from maybe (in US terms) 1st through 12th grades. So we had a big age range to play for and quite a large group! They were very enthusiastic, clapping along in time to some of the pieces which was a lot of fun, though it did get interesting in some of the odd metered songs where the rhythms are not straight forward. We took time during the show to answer some questions and describe what we do. I always feel akward doing this in Italy, but the students all study English which made it much easier.

Live at Highlands Institute: Tom and Andrea (backed by Mary, Joseph, Jesus and kings)
tap tap tap & thump thump bang crash

time for some Italian words
tap tap tap

December 14 - Rome, Italy
Something different today and a recording session for Fabio Zaccaria, a brilliant piano player and songwriter. His music had an unusual style. Though he calls it "pop" it had elements obviously influenced by jazz pianists like Chick Corea. It was fun and we spent time doing many Stick overdubs to give him some choices for the final production.

this guy played drums
this guy played Stick

three guys will track you

December 13 - Sorrento, Italy
Phew... long day today. We played in Sorrento tonight, about a 3.5 hour drive from Rome. Of course the show wasn't until about 11:30pm, so that left the day open and I took the liberty to go into the center of Rome for a bit. Then.. long drive.. the show, pack up and return back to Rome, finally completing the day around 5am! Sorrento is an amazing place, even at night, with hillside views of the water and lots of "classic" winding streets and small towns. I hope we can go back again in the daylight sometime!

Linea B di Roma arriva a Termini
and later... a drummer dances pre-show in Sorrento

December 11 - Brescia, Italy
Today, another long drive back to Italy passing through some incredible Swiss scenery on the way. Something I remembered from past tours was that in Switzerland, the weather and the languages can really vary based on the mountains. Switzerland technically has four official languages, and sometimes you can drive through a long tunnel (maybe even 15 km or so) and come out to find everything is suddenly in a new language and the weather has changed radically. Keeps things interesting! This evening we played in a drum shop called Drums Castle to highlight some of Andrea's gear choices. The owners were wonderful and took us out to a fun/funky pizza place afterwards that was decorated like a 50's American diner. The menu though was all Italian and Andrea and I ordered a pizza so spicy he said the name translates as "Run away!"

view from a Swiss gas station near Gruyere

a tree under construction?? At the border back to Italia

the stage is set for a drum/Stick clinic
we love drums! (who's that bald guy in front?)

December 10 - Fribourg, Switzerland
Today we traveled north... quite a bit actually and into Switzerland which for a show at a cafe called Le Cintra. This is a fun place right in downtown Fribourg; a small city with a great feel to it (maybe I can say "cosmopolitan"... maybe not). The city speaks French, but almost everyone seems to also know some Italian or English and probably German as well. Our host Francis is an amazing guy with a real love for what he does. A lot of times you can go to a club and find that the owners are just busy thinking about the business. We've been lucky to have several hosts like Francis in Fribourg and Giuliana at Osteria Rive who are also passionate about the music we're doing and that makes these shows feel very special. Cintra has a fairly small stage.. plenty big for the two of us, but.. Francis was telling us about how Tony Levin's Stickmen trio came through recently and I spent a lot of time puzzling over how in the world Pat Mastelotto fit his gear on the stage!

Cafe Le Cintra in Fribourg

The amazing Francis mc's for us in French
Two guys sign Cintra performers' guestbook

December 9 - Cartigliano, Italy
Tonight we played in an amazing, old historic cafe called Osteria Rive. The owner Giovanna has decorated it for years with an amazing collection of "vintage American" elements like a great old jukebox and phonograph player, plus cash registers, TVs, funky lamps.... you name it, it's there. She has such a great collection she told me Italian movie companies actually contact her from time to time for props. It was fun and kind of welcoming to see something from the "old country" here. As the town is not too far from Schio and Bassano del Grappa it also gave us another chance to play for many of our friends in that region. And the food of course was amazing... but that's Italia!

some of the fun decor
I don't see any Stick music.. but still very cool!

first, dinner with our lovely friends
then Rive owner Giuliana starts us off.

December 8, 2011 - Schio, Italy
Today was a national holiday in Italy, celebrating the Immaculate Conception of Mary (and not actually Mary's conception). For Italy that meant many businesses were closed and we had a day off which we spent in Schio with friends. A stroll around the downtown area took us past a large celebration going on including musicians in Santa hats and the first lighting of the town's Christmas tree. Nice to stumble into that, though it's definitely cold outdoors here at night!

Immacolata Concezione (Immaculate Conception) in Schio

December 7, 2011 - Schio Italy
Back to the music (and driving!) Today we (or I should say Andrea) drove about six hours north to the town of Schio. This has been a regular stop for me on almost every Italy tour thanks to an amazing group of friends there who love unusual music and put on shows of all shapes and sizes under the banner "Schio Life." This trip found us once again playing in a historic old restaurant called Due Spade, famous as for a time Ernest Hemmingway lived in the building and frequented it. I was happy this time that we had an extra day to spend in Schio as well as it's always great to see our friends there!

Ciao Schio!
e ciao Andrea

Outside the venue

December 5, 2011 - Ostia, Italy
A day off today and that can mean only one thing... time for more photos of food! Actually the first trek of the day was to the center of Rome where Andrea and I went to a Bikram Yoga class (his first, bravo Andrea!) and then I went to re-visit St Peter's basilica which is just being decorated for Christmas (a major procedure involving construction vehicles and scaffolding!). My friend Ilenia then took me to an amazing award winning pizza place in the beach town of Ostia. This is one I hope to revisit! Normally (compared to the US) pizza in Italy seems simpler, with fewer toppings, but just done amazingly well. Ilenia said this chef is known for being "creative" though and she asked him to just do whatever he wanted. We wound up with a giant pizza with more variety than I can remember. Split in four, each section was unlike anything I've had. My favorite was the section with sliced apple, gorgonzola cheese and salmon! Wow!

appetizers... mmmmm

Christmas under construction at St Peter's

December 4, 2011 - Rome, Italy
Yesterday we flew back to Rome and thankfully had a night off to rest a bit. This morning we played at a drum festival in Roma called Batterika. The event took over an entire building, complete with several performance/demo areas and several rooms full of exhibits from product manufacturers and distributors. My Stick player friends Roberto, Andrea and Francesca came to the show and it was great to spend some time catching up with them. Afterwards, Roberto was kind enough to give me a ride to a chocolate festival happening at Rome's major musical auditorium where after tasting way too many things, we met up briefly with my friend Ilenia who took me to Rome's Bikram Yoga studio to try to burn off some of the chocolate. Too much fun.. and I'm realizing more and more how most of the pictures I take on Italian tours seem to be of food!

Batterika is back, and so are we!

one of Batterika's product rooms

our stage and the opening act

some of the more artistic chocolates

and outside.. a farmers market of sorts...
... meats, cheeses, olive oils..and everything else!

December 2, 2011 - Messina, Italy
Back again, for the first time: I'm back in Italy for a few weeks, doing shows with my friend drummer Andrea Ruta. This trip will take us to several new (for us) locations around the country and briefly into Switzerland as well which will be great. Things started off before I left home though with a warning call from the airlines saying that there was going to be an employee strike at London's Hathrow airport where I was supposed to change planes. They said a lack of staff could cause delays of up to twelve hours in dealing with passports and that I might miss my connection to Rome. Our schedule didn't allow for me to change the flight though since we had just a quick turnaround to fly to Sicily. So... I packed a change of clothes and toiletries in my Stick case (carry on) and left with visions of possibly spending a night at the airport. Turned out fine though.. there were very few people at the airport and no problem with delays at all.. except that one of my bags didn't make it to Rome for another day.

Today we flew from Rome to Catania on Sicily then drove an hour or so to Messina. It's a gorgeous city right on the coast and the closest point on Sicily to the Italian mainland. Our first stop in the city was to see a famous church clock tower, which at noon put on a great "show" with all kinds of automated characters and music that probably lasted about 5 minutes or longer. Our show was right on the beach, in what was actually a windsurfing center, converted for the night into a music venue. Fun! Our hostess and promoter Gabriella took great care of us and is actually a drummer herself. We were encouraging her to play with us, but she was too shy... this time anyways! We hope to be back soon!

surfing tonight - Tom & Andrea
Ciao Messina!

Gabriella after the show

a serious view from the hotel room
night version

Messina clock tower

Catania arrivals.. it didn't feel that steep, but ??

Want more stories and trivia? Check out the website archives for past tour diaries.

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