Italian Labor Day

Italian Labor Day

(Man with tri-color beard for Italian Labor Day)

Today was a very hectic and crowded day in Rome. May 1st is the Italian equivalent of Labor Day. Every year the three biggest unions in Italy hold a free outdoor concert in the center of Rome. Also in honor of this holiday, all of the museums owned by the City of Rome (opposed to those owned by the State of Italy) are only one euro today and tomorrow. To top it all off, the Vatican chose to hold the Beatification (first step in becoming a saint) of the late Pope John Paul II this same day. Most Italians thought I was crazy for wanting to be anywhere near the center (think someone from NJ’s reaction to the idea of going to NYC for NYE), but how could I miss all of this?

I went to the Museo di Roma – Palazzo Braschi with Daniele earlier in the morning. I liked it. It told a good story of the different periods of Rome, opposed to focusing on only one. Also it was not just room after room of “Madonna with Child” like so many Italian museums.

We avoided going too close to the Vatican and the Beatification of the late Pope John Paul II. I feel like they could have planned better and chosen a better day, but I’m sure the day has spiritual significance for this sacred ceremony that I am not aware. Most Italians I know chose not to attend and only commented on what a nuisance it was going to be having so many people coming to Rome. It may have been a cool thing to say I was there for, but I’m not that interested in Vatican affairs, so I skipped this to go to the one euro museums and free concert instead.

Daniele headed off to work and I spent the day at this outdoor concert. All of Italy’s biggest artists come to this. The lesser known or newer artists play in the day; the big names play at night. Italians pack into Piazza di Porta San Giovanni and all the space around it. Men from Africa and Bangladesh push through the crowds offering to sell beer, water, or umbrellas for the sun.

I saw almost the whole concert, I was there from about 1:30 PM until it ended at 1:30 AM. In hindsight I should have probably gone to another museum or something else instead of spending so much time there. I left for a little while when I got uncomfortable sitting on the ground. Daniele and I met back up at 10 PM, when he got out of work and we had dinner. When we came back enough people had left that we were able to go right up front. Woo!

The bands and the music were almost all Italian pop. In general each artist came on, performed maybe three numbers, then there was a ridiculously long pause where someone would talk before the next artist. I didn’t really listen, but I presume it was pro-union propaganda. I know very few of the artists, but I listen to enough radio that I recognized a fair amount of the songs, which was fun.

The crowd was largely composed of what I will refer to as European hippies. That is hippies in the modern sense of the word: slightly dirty, typically young people, with dread locks, who may or may not be fighting for a cause. And if you think the American version of these people are dirty, imagine for a moment their European counterparts (you don’t have to imagine, I took pictures). Many of these people had shirts promoting some political message. All of them and most of the “regular” people at the concert were wearing “Stop Nuclear” stickers.

(There were dirtier groups, but I try not to get too close to anyone that might have something contagious while I’m traveling.)

As a back story, as few years ago Italy voted to not allow the development of nuclear power plants and today there are none in the country. As such, they have to buy much of their energy from abroad. A great deal of that comes from France, who has plenty of nuclear power plants, a fair amount of which are right on the Italian boarder. So the risk is still there, but they pay more and to France at that. For to this reason there is a bill now to allow nuclear plants in Italy. However many oppose it and want to keep it out of Italy. End side note.

I always considered Europe ahead of the US in terms of environmental awareness. But I was shocked… SHOCKED at what I saw at this concert. These same people who were wearing “Stop Nuclear” stickers, where tossing the “Stop Nuclear” fliers on the ground; along with other political and environmental fliers and newspapers. All the beer and water that everyone was drinking, the bottles were left right were they were, at most they ended up at a curb. What angered me the most was hundreds of “RAI Radio 2” balloons were handed out to the crowd on only strings. They all quickly ended up in the sky, and soon they will all be in the ocean. Moments after the concert ended the area was filled with machinery and workers who would stay up all night cleaning the mess. They actually used plows to pile the beer and water bottles, effective, except when the tires go over the missed bottles and shoot broken glass to the side. I was taking some pictures after the last act, but literally had to run, yes run, from flying broken glass as the plows started the cleaning. I think every worker in Rome was out sweeping and hosing for miles around– I have never seen such a mess.

(These people must really, really care about the environment to hand out all those fliers)

Umm, guys, I think you forgot your trash…

Run for your lives!

All the pictures from the day: