Hello. My name is Isaac, 35 years old from Vancouver, Canada. I have set this blog up to document my journey following Mark Knopfler’s 2013 “Privateering” tour, from April 25 (Bucharest, Romania) to July 31 (Calella de Palafrugell, Spain).

Due to Despite the tour’s obnoxious schedule (thanks, Mark), I cannot be entirely sure that I will attend all concerts. That being said, I will try. You are more than welcome to sit back, relax, read, and comment. You can also subscribe to the blog’s RSS feed (see the “Subscribe for Updates” box at the right hand side of the page. For standard RSS readers, select the “Atom” option).

Have fun,

Note: The contents of this blog are also available in hardcover and paperback formats. For more information, click here:

Friday, May 3, 2013

Milano to Torino, Italy (May 2, 2013)

It felt great to finally arrive to Italy on Wednesday evening. How great? as great as it was to leave Serbia; and then some.

I have very fond memories of Italy from the last time I was here, in the summer of 2010 during the Get Lucky tour. While my senses of smell and taste were gone for a few days due to illness (must have been something I caught in Budapest, the night before arriving at Italy), rendering me unable to appreciate any sort of food, still—Italy made such an impression on me that I vowed to visit it again in the future.

The move from Serbia to Northern Italy within the span of a few hours did well to establish how different the two are. While, to the westerner visitor, Serbia may appear somewhat oppressed and gray—life certainly appears more vivid less than 800km away.

As soon as I left the aircraft in Milano’s Malpensa airport, things started to seem significantly more upbeat, more open, more inviting; more intriguing. There’s something about the air in Italy that makes me feel like home there.

That may not be as far fetched as it sounds. Many claim that Israelis and Italians are very much alike in terms of social interactions, body language and even looks (I was mistakenly thought to be an Italian quite a few times in the past, which is quite the insult for Italians); and while I did spend the last ten years in Canada, Israel is where I was born and raised.

From Milano’s airport, it’s a 45 minutes train ride to Milano Centrale. I should say that, after about a week of getting around using airplanes, it felt absolutely great starting to use trains again. Unfortunately, eastern Europe leaves much to be desired in terms of railway transport, which made the eastern European part of the tour excruciating to plan and execute (with the hell of all rides—the bus from Prague to Łódź—still lurking; that’s next week). Here in western Europe, though, trains are the way to go.

From Milano Centrale, it is a ten minutes walk to Marconi Hotel—a hotel that looks very good on paper, very good from the outside, but was a complete failure. Like in Sofia, it turns out that air conditioning in hotel rooms in Milano start their “cooling period” in June—a fact that nobody bothered to mention when the hotel was booked; but even worse, there’s an ongoing Wi‐Fi connectivity issue in the hotel rooms, which, for certain people following concert tours, is more than a mild annoyance. Avoid it.

But hey, this is Italy, and when in Italy, first thing’s first: pizza. Got a recommendation for a nearby pizza place. Ristorante Pane e Tulipani, just up the street from the hotel, offers a very interesting menu and a pizza that is of the best that I have ever had.

Sitting in the restaurant and gazing at people—diners, waiters, managers—I felt something. Just looking at how these people talk, interact, even their body language—you get the sense that these people know how to live. They seem free and joyful. No, it wasn’t a fancy restaurant by any means; just a simple Italian restaurant, definitely not the place for the rich and famous to hang out in. Considering the fact that Italy’s economy isn’t exactly in its finest hour, you instantly know that happiness on people’s faces here, in Milano, doesn’t stem from finances and economy but from the knowledge of how to live well.

Pizza was devoured in a rather insane pace, then back to the hotel. No Wi‐Fi in the room, so I opted at the next best thing—a good night sleep.

Regionale Veloce 2010 from Milano to Torino left at 11:18am, very well timed—past breakfast in the hotel (lots of desserts, of which I enjoyed none) as well as catching up with some work from the hotel’s lobby, where Wi‐Fi actually did work. Two hours in first class, and on 1:10pm, the train arrived at Torino Porta Nuova, which is Torino’s main railway station.


I have never been to Torino before. I knew of its existence—the world famous Juventus soccer team calls Torino home—but never got around to see it, mostly because none of the recent Knopfler tours stopped here.

Dropped bags in the hotel—Hotel Roma e Rocca Cavour—and immediately set out looking for a place to eat. A quick search in TripAdvisor revealed a restaurant called Augusto Ristorante Pizzeria; unfortunately, due to a bug in TripAdvisor’s Android app, the map took us about 1.5km away to Piazza Cesare Augusto, instead of to the restaurant which happened to be about 100m from the hotel. Still, it was a nice walk.


Piazza San Carlo is a beautiful square in Torino’s city center, and a major attraction spotted with appealing cafes and restaurants.


Torino features beautiful narrow streets that are very typical, in appearance and appeal, to Italy: intimate, friendly, inviting—hell, I could definitely live here for a while.


Finally arrived to Piazza Cesare Augusto:


And then, upon realizing the navigation mistake, went back through an alternate route, revealing more of Torino’s beauty.


It’s these little beautiful cafes that I’d like to have my morning coffee. There’s something appealing in sipping hot beverage in small, intimate patios like these: actually, the city planners of Vancouver took note of this, and tried to bring a similar concept to the (now‐revitalized, previously a paradise for drug dealers) district of Gastown (ever heard of that famous steam clock of Vancouver? That’s where it is. Never heard of it? then I suppose it’s not famous enough). The result is pleasing, but still, no cigar.

By the time we arrived at the actual restaurant we had initially planned to go to, lunch time was over and most restaurants were closed until dinner time. Starving, we came across a self‐serve type establishment that served good (though not great) food; that did the trick.

Back to the hotel to catch up with work, plus a short nap. 6:00pm arrived—time to head to the venue, this time located quite far from the hotel, about 4km away.

The plan was to eat a short dinner before heading to the concert: take a bus, stop by at a local famous pizza place along the way, then proceed to the venue by foot. Everything was planned down to the smallest detail.

There was only one problem with that plan: it was devised while I was asleep and I knew nothing about it before the Dutchman woke me up and told me “we have 12 minutes to catch a bus”. Talk about rude awakening. Bus was missed, but with the help of the hotel’s staff we found some alternate plan using another bus.

Now, here’s a tip: in Torino, you can’t buy bus tickets on the bus itself. You need to buy those in stores, such as convenience stores.

Neither of us was aware of this. Boarding the bus and asking how much it costs, we were told, in fluent Italian (that neither of us could make any sense of), that what we were trying to accomplish negates pretty much everything that Torino’s bus system stands for. We knew what the driver meant by assuming that “No borda” means “not on board”, but mainly thanks to the help of an English‐speaking lovely Italian lady who stood by and informed us that we’re clueless.

As I am not in the habit of taking free rides in buses, I was inclined to leave the bus but the lady urged us to stay on board, and explain the situation to the ticket maestro if and when they come on board. They didn’t. Still, I may be purchasing bus tickets tomorrow and do nothing with them; I hate the idea of owing things to people, let alone owing money to entire cities.

Dropped off the bus, right in front of the pizza place, Pizzeria Vecchio Forno Garibaldi: rated #47 out of 1,449 restaurants in Torino, this place serves deep‐dish pizzas, a far departure from Italy’s normal thin crust ones. Delicious, but I think I’ll stick to the thin crust pizzas from now on.

A short walk from there to the venue to pick up the tickets…


… then backtracked a bit for some coffee and tea in an extremely cute cafe near the venue—I can’t find a direct link to the establishment’s website (possibly because they don’t have any) but you can see it here. A small tea, coffee & desserts place—local, not too fancy but extremely inviting. Baking everything on site. Tea, cappuccino and a few cookies for €3.30. I want to live here.

Back to the venue…


… and spent the next half an hour saying hello to many Knopfler fans I had met during previous tours. People from France and Switzerland made their way to Torino to catch the first show in the tour’s Italian leg, was good to see them all.

Other than the food, the other reason I liked Italy so much during the last tour was the audience. The Italian audience is very passionate—more so in the south, but northern Italians aren’t exactly the most reserved audience themselves. Much excitement in the venue: Knopfler’s fan base in Italy is of the stronger ones. He is known to love performing in Italy, and I suppose it wouldn’t be too risky to assume that the immense support he receives from Italian audiences is one of the main reasons for that.

The Torino show consisted mostly on fast, rhythmic, rocking songs. After being absent from the Belgrade show, Sultans of Swing made a comeback (I guess you can’t do without this tune for too long), but for me, the definite highlight of the evening was the introduction of a new song to the tour’s set: Kingdom of Gold, previously played a few times during the Knopfler‐Dylan tour (if I’m not mistaken, only in its North American leg).

Kingdom of Gold is one of my favourite Knopfler tunes, both for its haunting melody and for its interesting lyrics, which I am guessing are a sarcastic stab at capitalism. There are many references to typical capitalistic economy elements in that song (ribbons, numbers, the Gods of the bought and the sold—these must refer to a stock market), and it appears to be telling the story of a money‐driven society defeating perpetrators by using immense force, whereas such force is not necessarily needed. This is my own interpretation, and it might have popped into my head following all sorts of thoughts I’ve been having in the last couple of years about how modern society is affected by money—for good and bad, mostly the bad. I’ll leave these thoughts for another post, but for now, here’s an interesting article in which bankers explain why they couldn’t possibly live on a $1 million salary.

Back to the show. Another new addition to the set—Gator Blood, not of my favourites but still sounds better played live. A rocking song, joining I Used to Could in setting the rocking theme for the entire concert.

The Running of the Bulls made its first appearance in the tour, when the audience attached itself to the stage barrier right after Speedway at Nazareth. Not much violence, though; I suppose we’ll see some more violence in the vicinity of the stage once we reach the south.

Very good rocking concert, and here are some pictures, courtesy of the Dutchman:


After the show, a quick taxi ride back to the hotel and off for a good night sleep, before heading back to Milano.



  1. Oh how we enjoy, me and the other fans of Torino, the yesterday concert! Kingdom of Gold was absolutely a surprise for me, we hope to meet you Isaac and the other Privatering Tour musicians in Barcelona on next 25th July. Take care all of you, lads!

  2. Did you by chance happen to see the band at the Milan train station ? Thanks for the blog. Regards Russell - Adelaide, SA.

  3. I'm very happy you appreciate Torino. The Olympic city is not well known but it is rich of wonderful stuff to visit. Good continuation travel.