Stranded at a Macklemore Concert in Rome | Travel Diaries 1

Katherine Pannell|20 June 2020

Plonk a couple of South Africans in the middle of Rome with concert tickets and what’s the worst that could happen? In a foreign city, surrounded by a foreign language, with no cellphone use…at night. This is the story of how myself and one of my best friends, Lungi, made the best and worst decision of our lives.

Macklemore in Rome

Let me just preface this by saying that we never would have done something like this in South Africa. While I definitely don’t regret what we did and Italy is generally pretty safe, this is not something that I would ever encourage others to do.

Trip to Rome? What? When?

So let’s rewind a bit, shall we? Taking it back to July 2018, a young Katherine was super excited for her solo trip to Italy. I had always dreamed of going to Italy and I couldn’t believe it was actually happening.  I was at the airport, just about to leave when Lungi, one of my dearest friends from high school, walked up to me at the airport. What the heck was she doing here?

I was so dense, I didn’t even click with the fact that it was no coincidence. She basically had to spell it out: “My friend, I’m coming with you!”. My mom had pulled the ultimate “gotcha” card and my fun but potentially lonely solo trip had transformed into the trip of a lifetime with one of the best people in my life. If you’re thinking “damn this girl is lucky”, you don’t even know the half of it. I don’t want to gaan on about being grateful and all that but the layers of privilege that even allowed for this kind of opportunity are immense and I don’t want to ignore that.

So, we left for an incredible trip and on our third day in Rome, we had tickets to go see Macklemore live. Anyone who wasn’t living under a rock in high school knows that there is no greater joy than jamming to Thrift Shop with your mates. So yes, we were extremely excited!


So what’s the issue with the concert?

There wasn’t any issue with the concert itself. The only problem on our side was that we still didn’t have any SIM cards. We were trying to make our money last and SIM cards were deceptively expensive. Both of us figured that we could get around just fine by planning out routes on the WiFi at the hostel and then relying on cafe WiFi in and around the city if we needed to. We were pretty much right about that, except for this occasion. The concert venue was much further than where we were usually roaming around on foot, and we all know that public transport at night is not a great idea.

You gotta risk it to get the biscuit.

So we knew that we could order an Uber on the hostel WiFi to get to the venue but our way back was still unknown. We didn’t do that much research about busses going there and back because honestly until that day, we weren’t really sure if we would actually go. After going back and forth about whether we should go or not, we kind of both had a f*** it moment. We were in Rome with the chance to see Macklemore live. It seemed absolutely crazy to pass that up so we just went for it. I think we just hoped that someone would be kind enough to just order us a cab or direct us to a safe bus that might be running.

Was the biscuit/concert worth the risk?

The actual concert venue was an old horse farm or something, I’m not too sure. But basically it was outdoors and the number of people there was stupid. Not stupid as in too much, stupid as in so few that it felt like a private concert. I’d say there were maybe max 3000 people there in total which meant that everyone had their own space to dance, and even the people at the back were decently close to the stage.

All in all, even before Macklemore came on, we were pretty sure we had made the right choice.

at macklemore concert
at macklemore

So out came Macklemore and he was nothing short of incredible. He had awesome energy and he sounded amazing. Honestly, he was having so much fun putting on a huge concert for a relatively small crowd of people that it was impossible not to have fun as well. It seemed like he was enjoying Rome just as much as we were.

Macklemore played banger after banger. Songs like Same Love and Thrift Shop made it all feel a bit surreal. He also did a really emotional version of Otherside, which hit me in the feels because Otherside is already one of my favourite songs. Then he played Can’t Hold Us and the whole crowd lost it. It was amazing. I filmed part of Can’t Hold Us which I’ve added here as well. Just please excuse my atrocious singing…if you can even call it that…and the really shaky and terrible video quality. Hopefully, you can still get a sense of the intense happiness of the moment.

I’m going to name my child Marco.

When the concert was finished and Macklemore had played his last song, everyone ended up waiting outside the venue for their lifts. We were waiting for our lack thereof. So we started asking around and even spoke to some police there and basically the options that we thought we would have, like a bus, was not a thing. They basically pointed us to the train station and said you can use the train or walk. Walk back 10km at night with no working phones for Google maps. Yeah…no thanks.

I don’t know why I kind of thought that one of the police would be kind enough to call us a cab. I guess I was just naive and we had no such luck. Finally, we spoke to a young guy standing by myself, Marco, who looked trustworthyish. Whatever that means. We asked if he could please call us a cab and basically, almost all the cab services were closed or didn’t have any cars left available. He finally managed to get through to a company that had a car left but it was one car and he also had to get home. So we had to decide whether to trust this stranger about this whole “one cab left” thing. I won’t lie, I was extremely suspicious and quite scared as well.

It was a toss-up between Marco, taking our chances at the train, or literally walking. So we agreed to share a cab with Marco…the last cab in Rome, it seemed. By the time the cab arrived, most people had left and I swear, getting into that car was the biggest “trust your instincts” moment. I spent the whole ride clutching onto my pepper spray, watching the road and the GPS in the front, just praying that the area would start looking familiar soon.

The cab ended up stopping at the wrong address but thankfully it was genuinely just a mistake of the address and we were only a few minutes away from our hostel. We made it home all in one piece, nothing weird happened, and Marco is officially an angel. He wouldn’t even let us pay him for the cab. Marco, if you’re reading this, thanks for being the biggest lifesaver!

Moral of the story:

Don’t do what we did. Seriously, just don’t. But if you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to your safety, trust your gut. 


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