Fiddle Guitar Vocal duo the Summer Januaries– Sean Michael Robinson and Rachel Erin Robinson

Leather Shoes and a Few CDs

Energized by the events of the morning, Sean and I headed back to the center of Brescia, ready to play. On previous visits we had seen a few buskers playing under the covered walkways surrounding the shops in the center of the city, so we were pretty sure that this was the place to busk. We walked around the center a bit, tipped a busker who was singing Italian songs into a microphone, karaoke style, accompanied by prerecorded music blaring from his case, and chose a spot just far enough away from him to be out of earshot, in front of a display window of fancy Italian shoes.


Another local Brescia busker, not far from “our” spot.

A little nervous and unsure of what to expect, we started off with a slow instrumental tune, “Ashokan Farewell” which is always a hit in the U.S. Much to our relief, our music was met with smiles, nods, and coins tossed into our case. We played instrumental tunes until we felt more comfortable, and then launched into one of our favorite songs, “Androgynous.” A woman stopped and asked to buy our CD right away! “How much?” she asked in English. “Dieche euro” I replied, excited to use the few Italian words I had prepared. “How much?” she asked again, looking puzzled. “Oh, ten.” I said, realizing that of course she knew I spoke English, seeing it was the language we were currently singing in.

We played for a couple of hours, selling a few more CDs and stopping every once in a while to have a chat with someone who was listening. We stopped mid-song to talk with a doctor from Brescia who said that he had been to Seattle a few times for conferences, and that he thought it was a very beautiful place. He told us that he loved listening to music , and downloads 20 songs a day. He bought our CD and seemed excited to listen to it.

There are police everywhere in Brescia, and while we were pretty sure busking was legal and we wouldn’t get hassled, we were still a little anxious. A few songs into our set, we exchanged an uneasy glance as we noticed a pair of police officers approaching. Our anxiety quickly turned to relief, as they nodded politely and walked on by. They walked by again a bit later, this time smiling and bobbing their heads to the music, and even later we were waved at by police officers from the window of their car as they drove by on the street below. The police in Brescia liked us and didn’t plan on throwing us in jail! We were thrilled. We packed up our instruments and walked back to meet Gwen, tired, happy, and ready for more.

A quick count of our earnings confirmed that this whole busking around Europe idea was a good one – we had made about the same amount that we would make playing at Pike Place Market for the same amount of time – more than enough to pay for food and lodging for the day.

After a fun night out with Gwen and Giacomo’s friends and a Saturday morning of much needed relaxation, we headed back to Brescia for a second day of busking. When we got to the center of the city around noon, it was clear that it was too early to start playing. The streets were mostly abandoned and many of the shops were closed. We’d heard that Italians close up shop to take a lunch/nap break from around noon to 2:30, and then return to the streets for a promenade, an early evening stroll that seems to occur around 4 to 6pm.


Rachel amongst the angelic violin players.

We walked back toward the castle we had visited the day before, found a museum to explore, and spent a few hours looking at art, including a few original Rafaels and some mystifying paintings of figures made entirely of fruit. On our walk back to the center, we were stopped in the street by the honk of passing car. The window rolled down to reveal the doctor we had met the day before! He turned up his car stereo, which was playing track 8 of our CD, an instrumental tune “Back Up and Push.” “Bueno, Bueno! Brava, Brava!” he exclaimed, smiling and giving us an enthusiastic thumbs up. Not a little shocked, we told him that we were on our way to the center of the city for some more busking.


The view from our spot.

Twenty minutes later, set up in front of our new favorite Italian shoe store we had played at the day before, we felt it was only right to start our set with the tune we had just heard coming from the doctor’s car stereo. Seconds into the tune, who should rush by but the doctor, off to a house call nearby. “Back Up and Push!” he cried as he hurried along.

A bit later in our set, a group of high school age girls stopped to listen, talking amongst themselves and giggling, and then asking if they could take a short video. They were doing a project about love, they said, and asked if we would talk briefly about what love meant to us. Shy in front of the camera, and knowing Sean is a ham, I let him loose on the captive audience, and he babbled for a minute or two about his undying devotion to me and every aspect of my adorable, cherished self. Ho hum.

Though our second day was just as fun as the first, we recognized many people from the previous day, and we wondered how long it would take for us to be less interesting to people. Well, we didn’t plan on finding out- one more day in Leno, and it would be off to Firenze. Good-bye Brescia!

At least, that was the plan.


 NEXT: Three gigs in one day

  1. James Brendlinger Wednesday, October 10th 2012 at 10:07 am

    One of my great fears is of people assembled from various pieces of fruits and vegetables. Plus there is a terrifying owl in the background of the painting.


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