Ferrara Street Buskers Festival

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Colour, energy, passion, creativity.  These are the words that describe the world of the street artists we call ‘buskers’


a noun  busk·er \ˈbəs-kər\ 

:  a person who entertains in a public place for donations

It derives from the Spanish word buscar, which means to seek. Seeking interpretation, appreciation,  emotion and wonder.

Where better to see the flamboyant costumes, fire eaters, jazz bands and mime artists than at Ferrara Buskers Festival, which this year is celebrating its 30th Edition.

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Sunset in Piazza Trento – Trieste

It’s little wonder as it has grown to become the most widely celebrated street artist festival in all of Europe attracting performers from

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Ziggy McNeill with Castello Estense as a backdrop

as far away as Australia and Japan.   Over 800,000 visitors every year come to see the sights and hear the sounds created by 1000 different artists filling the streets – and what wonderful streets they are.  The setting of the festival is in the historical centre of Ferrara (a UNESCO world heritage site) with the majestic castle as its back drop certainly one of its charms (yes it even has its own moat and I am sure I saw Prince Charming hiding from me in the shadows).

When the street becomes the stage for these artists, thats when the magic really happens.   The beauty of busking is that you can find everything from jugglers with their comedy acts to musicians and artistic dancers.

Paradoxically this is what makes the street one of the hardest and possibly most rewarding stages in the world.  The audience can be fickle. But this is one of the attractions of the busker.  Jostling to grab the attention of the passerby.  The busker is gregarious, noisy, with a booming voice and commanding posture.  The urgent rhythm of the busker pulls you in.  Into another world.  Full of magic and joy.

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The Redboot Band – These English gals know how to have fun


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Gamberini Danza – feel the rythmn and just do it


One of my favorite acts of the night was performed by Alessio Burini and his partner. Just when I thought yoga couldn’t be any more challenging Alessio gives a 30 minute spectacular of AcroYoga and the amazing Cyr Wheel.  I have to admit I was more than impressed by the teams agility, strength and sheer power that their bodies possess (not to mention the chiselled 8 pack abs Alessio has, truely a work of art). The best part for me however was seeing the beaming smiles from them both as the audience showed its appreciation.  It was sooooo clear that they passionately love what they do and were immensely proud to be able to bring us into their world if even for a short while.

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Alessio Burini – AcroYoga and Cry Wheel phenomenon

Turning into another alleyway we come across Kenta Hayashi.  Kenta hails from Japanese and was performing tracks from his new album Loop444.   So called because his music is created using a loop station;

A loop station: a music device which allows artists to build layers of music.  Live looping is the method of recording and playback of music in real-time.

The 444 is as he is playing the guitar tuned to the reference pitch A444 (rather than the standard A440).  Kenta then went on to explain that this pitch was famously used by John Lennon for the song Imagine and that it resonates spirituality.  Sounds good to me!

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Kenta Hayashi


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Magic bubbles in the air

I’ll leave you with a YouTube video of Ziggy McNeill.  Who travelled the furthest distance to entertain us in Ferrara – all the way from Sydney Australia…….now that reminds me, I must hop to the travel agency to book my Australia flights!

How to prepare an Italian for an Irish Christmas

  1. Keep them warm. Socks, thermal underwear, hats, gloves, scarfs.  Go on dress them up like a mini Micheln man you won’t regret it.
  2. ….and keep them cool.  We have a nice open log fire at home.  One of the things I miss the most is sitting in front of warm glowing log embers on a dark cold winter evening…….but what no one tells you, is that sitting next to a burning flame is hot. Really hot and I don’t mean in the sexy way.  Imagine sitting in the living room.  Open fire.  40 degrees celsius stripped down to our underpants.  Cheeks glowing pink (it’s probably due to the wine consumed, but we’ll blame it on the temperature) and then deciding its time for bed, or a bathroom break or whatever.  Heading away from the fireplace into another part of the house.  Now  this can only be described as an experience similar to that of jumping into a frozen lake after sitting in a Nordic sauna.  Not at all pleasant.  Although come to think of it people do say this is healthy and good for you, which on second thoughts almost always equals something rather unpleasant.
  3. Get the liver warmed up. Increase daily tolerance of alcohol SLOWLY in the weeks leading up to the festivities.  This should allow the body to get used to the blood being a little more diluted than usual.  Do you need some more wine in your blood system???  No problem, just visit my mum.
  4. Gin and Tonic is an aperitivo.  Consumed in our household normally before the Christmas lunch.  This is THE secret ingredient to all our cooking and quite frankly anything that helps keep my mum singing while she’s juggling a 2 kilo turkey in the kitchen is more than welcome! In Italy this cocktail is more commonly consumed as a digestivo, late in the evening after a hearty meal so getting used to this cultural difference, I hope should come as a pleasant surprise.
  5. Throw away the daily planner.  Mum is in charge.  Much like Italian mothers controlling the household, Irish mothers seem to have read the same parenting handbook.  Think Julie Andrews in Mary Poppins without the psychedelic trips into street paintings.  You should not expect to make any decisions for the entire stay. This however should be seen as a positive.  Say yes for a simple life and let the brain take a well deserved vacation.
  6. Set them up to make pasta fresca.  I ordered a while back for my sister a large rolling pin and tagliere, the large wooden board for making fresh homemade pasta.  This can have two benefits.  The home cooked Italian pasta creating a mini-island of calmness and familiarity in the chaos that is an Irish home – and we get to eat well!…
  7. ….or alternatively get them to be mums chef in training in the kitchen. This is a more realistic option for Christmas as generally there is little time to ask, “what shall we eat today?” given all the mincepies, turkey, christmas puddings, coffee, cakes and finger food that is forced upon you.  Bonus points with mum as she has a little helper never fails!
  8. Secret escapes to the beach.  A little ‘down time’ away from the Irish clan is essential to (a) relax the brain from having to understand our babbeling, noisy, fast and unique way of communicating with each other.  Remember your (better) Italian half will feel at times like a fish out of water (b)  Breathing in the fresh salty sea air is just priceless and a great way to steal secret kisses and hugs with your Italian Stallion (although be warned the dog will be keeping one eye on you!).
  9. The dog is the most loved member of the family.  She will be your shadow, cuddle your feet, eat your leftovers and take you for walks.
  10. Finally, say goodbye to elegance and impeccable Italian style.  Say hello to crazy Christmas jumpers!

How not to drink coffee in Italy

How not to drink coffee in Italy

Do not sit down to drink your coffee: Lets be honest, coffee is a drug and who needs to sit down for a daily injection of caffeine in their blood system? We are in Italy and the bar is not Starbucks and no you cannot sit here for free for the next 2 hours.

No need to order an espresso: Un caffé per favore is all you need to say.

In fact, no fancy coffee allowed: keep it simple and certainly do not try ordering a white chocolate mocha frappuccino, that’s like asking for  a single malt whisky with olives and  a cocktail umbrella in an Irish pub.

Do not order cappuccino after 11.00 a.m.: Baristas have been known to split their beautifully fitted tailored shirts rolling in laughter when a tourist does this.  I am still uncertain of the rationale behind this but I suspect that the highly evolved (and as such delicate) italian digestive system has something to do with this.

If you need some milk in your coffee and it is past noon you are safe to order a caffé macchiato: this baby cappuccino literally means ‘stained’ coffee as it has been stained with a splash of milk.  You will be asked if you prefer hot or cold milk, congratulations if you can taste the difference.

You don’t go to a café to take your coffee, you go to the bar: No all Italians are not alcoholics unless….

You are in the mountains/ski resorts and you ask for a caffé the barista will look at you twice and say ‘liscio?’ which literally means ‘straight’ i.e. no additives, no liquor….are you joking??

Which leads me to a caffé corretto: this literally means a ‘corrected coffee’, with the liquor of your choice.  Normally this is grappa, brandy or sambuca and can be served with a shot glass on the side or with a few drops added to your coffee cup depending on the crazed look in your eyes or the generosity of your barista.

Finally once we’ve enjoyed our coffee we have to ask for lo scontrino and pay, or should i have paid first?!: This is where it gets a little confusing as payment systems vary. Generally in small local places you can order, consume, order a second pastry (or is that just me?) and then pay once you’re satisfied and refueled.  At the larger bars you need to: queue, order, pay, get a ticket, order a second time (in a different queue), now wave your ticket frantically in the air in front of a second barista who will actually give you your coffee. Hurrah!

Anyone have any other Italian coffee survival tips for this caffeine addict?  Let me know in the comments!