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Rome: Hot summer nights

Rome: Hot summer nights

Article from: The Australian

THE world gets it together perfectly on a summer’s evening in Rome: the setting, the light, the sultry air cooling slightly after the afternoon’s heat, the wafting aromas of pine and jasmine and chopped basil. Then there’s the happy drone of cicadas and motor scooters, the sound of fountains, the promise of something beautiful around every corner.

To celebrate the great good fortune of being in Rome in summer, the city has created an extraordinary summer festival, now in its 32nd year. Known simply as Estate Romana, or Roman Summer, it is an umbrella organisation drawing together a host of individual summer festivals into a chaotic whole, a kind of urban Glastonbury without the tents or the smelly loos.

From mid-June to late September the city heaves with open-air events as Romans take to the streets, the parks, the ruins, the piazzas and the riverbanks to savour and to enjoy the most perfect conjunction of time and place that is Rome on a summer’s evening.

The ruins: Finished by Augustus in the first century AD and dedicated to his favourite nephew, Marcellus, the Teatro di Marcello (follow the Via del Teatro di Marcello from the Piazza Venezia) is the setting for a concert series rather like the Proms in London, with more than 100 concerts running until September 27. Great Japanese pianist Hiroshi Takashu plays Donizetti and Rossini on August 15. Michele Pentrella will be a treat on September 26 and the Italian Tango Quartet’s tribute to Piazzolla sounds unmissable.

Performances are at 8.30pm; arrive 30 minutes early for a guided tour of the ruins. As part of this program, concerts are also held in the quirky Casina della Civette in the grounds of the Villa Torlonia in the Nomentana district. www.tempietto.it.

The racetrack: This is the place to show off your salsa moves. Rome’s International Festival of Latin American Music and Culture is held in the Ippodrome delle Capannelle on the Via Appia Nuova, a racetrack just to the south of the city that is transformed for the summer into a vast open-air club with restaurants, bar, disco floor and shopping.

The program runs until August 16 and highlights include the great Oscar d’Leon, Puerto Rican salsa singer Gilberto Santarosa and Issac Delgado with salsa queen La India. Take the metro line A to Colli Albani, then 664 bus. www.fiesta.it.

Some nights the venue shifts gear to host the Rome Rock Festival: lots of noisy Italian bands with a mix of international names such as UB40, the Killers, Franz Ferdinand and White Lies, Nine Inch Nails, TV on the Radio, and Animal Collective. www.rockinroma.com.

The three parks: a series of music and dance events is held with more than a touch of the avant-garde in the grounds of Rome’s largest and most splendid park, Villa Doria Pamphili at the top of Janiculum Hill. The combination of African pianist Omar Sosa and Italian trumpeter Paulo Fresu, woven through with electronic sounds, will be one of the highlights on July 27. www.iconcertinelparco.it.

Italians take their jazz seriously and Rome’s jazz festival at Villa Celimontana is a nightly series of concerts in the grounds of this historic park near the Baths of Caracalla (through to mid-September). Appearing are the best Italian musicians and a few international names; most concerts are at 10pm but night owls may prefer the later offerings at 11.30pm. www.villacelimontanajazz.com.

Lakeside in the rambling Villa Ada park, in the Parioli district of north Rome, concerts billed as Rome Meets the World feature artists from every corner of the worls. Among the 50 concerts running until August8, highlights include Radiodervish, a wild combo of musicians from Puglia and Palestine on July23, and Nitin Sawhney, British jazz fusion exponent, on July 31. The concert area opens at 8pm, in time for a lavish picnic, and the concerts begin at 10pm. www.villaada.org.

Ancient baths: Opera at the Baths of Caracalla, where Shelley once sat sucking his pencil, is one of the great events of the Roman summer. Archeologists complain that the high notes are detrimental to the stability of the old walls but the public’s passion for outdoor opera has overridden such anxieties. There are three new productions this year: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Tosca and Carmen. At 9pm, from now until August 9. (Probably best to avoid the front row in case the archeologists are right.) www.operaroma.it.

The Roman theatre: With the remains of restaurants, laundries, shops and ancient apartment buildings, the old Roman port of Ostia Antica is often compared to Pompeii. Among the ruins is a reconstructed Roman theatre that hosts the eclectic festival known as Cosmophonies. Watch out for the Argentine dance troupe Pasiones in Divino Tango on July 22 and Zeling One, a circus event, on July 30. Take Metro B to Piramide or Magliana then the Ostia Lido train from Porta San Paolo Station (trains every 30 minutes). Shows at 9.15 pm. www.cosmophonies.com.

The Renaissance courtyard: A cool classical venue for cool classical music. The International Chamber Ensemble holds concerts in the Courtyard of Sant’Ivo, not far from Piazza Navona, until August 11. Designed by Borromini, this magnificent courtyard under a canopy of stars is worth the price of admission. Included this year are works by Albinoni, Vivaldi and Barber. Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro is performed on July 21, 22, 24 and 25, and an evening of music from the Great American Songbook by George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Kurt Weill and Richard Rodgers is on July 30 and 31 and August 4 and 11. Corso Rinascimento 40. www.interensemble.org.

The banks of the Tiber: Those who know Rome will already have discovered the peace of the riverbanks, with their broad paved promenades away from the chaos of the streets. Lungo er Tevere is a festival-fair that sets up here from June to the end of August, between the Garibaldi and Cestio bridges. It’s a bizarre and wonderful mix; there are stalls with food from all over regional Italy, photographic exhibitions and arts and crafts stalls. Things hot up at night when the riverside bars fill up and the banks hum with DJ sets, jazz, dance courses, theatre, cabaret, drag-queen shows and much more. And the Isola del Cinema (see below) is just opposite. www.lungoiltevereroma.com.

The island: L’Isola Tiberina, or Tiber Island, sits midstream between Trastevere and the Ghetto. It houses a hospital, a church and banks where lovers stroll in the moonlight surrounded by the romantically swirling waters of the Tiber. During the Estate Romana, it becomes Isola del Cinema, or Cinema Island. There are twice-nightly screenings of classic and new-wave Italian films as well as an international schedule of world cinema, cult flicks and Hollywood offerings every night until the end of August. There are also waterside cafes, exhibitions, and talks with directors, writers and actors. www.isoladelcinema.com.

The amphitheatre: Rome’s grandest music venue is the Parco del Musica, more commonly known as the Auditorium. Designed by Renzo Piano, it features three concert halls with beetle-like roofs around the central cavea, or outdoor amphitheatre. Here you will find some of the biggest names of the Estate Romana. Best of the best are James Taylor on July 19, David Byrne on July 20, Burt Bacharach on July 24 and Tracy Chapman on July 27. www.auditorium.com.

The imperial villa: More evocative than most of the ruins in Rome, the Villa Adriano, or Hadrian’s Villa, is in Tivoli, 30km from the city. Roman emperor Hadrian built the villa as his country retreat. With three libraries, three bathhouses, two theatres, two stadiums and enough guesthouses to accommodate half of Asia Minor, it was the kind of place that would make the palace at Versailles look cramped.

The Festival Villa Adriano offers a mix of dance, circus and music events. The Ballet of the Mariinski Theatre in St Petersburg turns up in a tribute to American choreographer William Forsythe on July 25; performances start at 9pm and a pre-concert guided tour of the villa is available for E4.5 ($7.80).

Ticket holders for the events can reserve places on a free shuttle bus that leaves from the Parco della Musica in Rome two hours before each event and returns at midnight. www.auditorium.com/villaadriana.

Alfresco dining: Boccondivino is housed in a 16th-century palazzo, with a terrace facing the quiet piazza in front of Santa Maria in Campo Marzio. Owner Daniele Costantini prides himself on excellent versions of classic pastas such as amatriciana and cacio e pepe. The desserts are awesome. Try their twist on the classic tiramisu, with hot fudge sauce. Piazza Campo Marzio. Mains from E15. www.boccondivino.it.

Piazza delle Coppelle, just north of the Pantheon, feels like a big party on a summer night. Tables from various restaurants seem to mingle one into the other. For an inexpensive dinner try Maccheroni, a traditional trattoria serving classic Roman pastas such as rigatoni alla gricia made with pecorino cheese, guanciale (unsmoked bacon from the cheek of the pig) and black pepper. Mains from E10. www.ristorantemaccheronicom.

Summer beds: Capo d’Africa is stylish in a classic way and close to the Coliseum. Look for three-nights-for-the price-of-two offers. Via Capo d’Africa 54. hotelcapodafrica.com.

Hotel Aventino is intimate and surrounded by greenery on the quiet Aventine Hill. Via di S Domenica 10. www.aventinehotels.com.

Checklist
Sign up on the Estate Romana website for daily notices of events. When in Rome, ring the city’s helpline for information in English about all summer events, including purchasing tickets and booking hotels. More: 060 608 (in Rome); www.estateromana.comune.roma.it.

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