Though I like to consider myself adventurous, my travels in Europe have generally been limited to the Rick Steves-approved tourist spots, the ones teeming with other American sightseers.
|Michelangelo's cupola, St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City|
But last summer while I was teaching a study abroad course in Rome, I let myself be lured off the beaten track, to an Italian seaside town called Cattolica. Just south of Rimini on the Adriatic sea, Cattolica has beach resorts, charming pedestrian walkways, and restaurants like this one:
What it doesn't have a lot of is English speaking visitors. At the hotel where I stayed, my warm and welcoming hosts were thrilled to be able to practice their English on me.
|Claudia and Massimo at the Hotel Jupiter|
To be honest, I'd never even heard of Cattolica before last summer. I travelled there only because I wanted to see a concert by MIKA, a multilingual British pop star with a five-octave range and a captivating stage presence.
I'd caught MIKA's act once before in Philadelphia, where he has a modest but devoted following. His show here was low-key and acoustic, befitting the smaller venues he can fill in the U.S. In Philly, MIKA mostly stayed behind the piano and focused on his quieter songs, the ones that don't call for full band backup.
But in Europe the guy's a bona-fide popstar--a judge on X Factor Italy and a former judge on The Voice France, with a giddy fandom of school-age girls and their families. In Europe, he tours with a band and puts on a big electric show that showcases all of his hits.
I arrived to the venue in Cattolica a few hours early thinking my General Admission ticket would get me near the stage. What I found was an ocean of MIKA fans ahead of me, some who had been camping out in the street since the day before.
MIKA opened with "We Are Golden"--one of my favorites, and a song he didn't play in Philadelphia--and things just got bigger and more thrilling from there.
A special bonus: MIKA's mother was watching the show on the other side of the fence from me. I said hello and thanked her for giving the world her son, and she was sweet and gracious in return.
|A view from the far side of the stage|
But back to Cattolica. If I hadn't let MIKA lure me there, I would have missed so much: lovely people, amazing food, beautiful views, and a glimpse of where Italians go on their summer vacations.