While we were flying to Rome for our recent vacation, my wife said, “You’re not going to hunt for Elvis stuff again, are you?” She went on to tell me how stupid that was, considering all the art, architecture and history the city offered.
Well, I knew in advance that question would be coming, and I had my answer ready. “I will only search for Elvis goodies while you are shopping.” That shut her up. Shopping is a key element of any vacation for her.
One thing she always does is search out the local Hard Rock Café, so she can buy another T-shirt and guitar pin for her collections. The Rome Hard Rock was conveniently located within reasonable walking distance from the famous Trevi Fountain, so we trekked on over. It was situated in a very nice section of town, just a block from the American Embassy.
While my wife was in the Hard Rock gift shop, I asked the hostess where the Elvis memorabilia was located. I was impressed that she had a three-page list of singers/groups and where all their stuff was displayed. Most were clustered together in one section, but Elvis was spread around in four spots. There were seven items in all, but due to their locations, I could photograph only three. That was enough for me to consider my search for Elvis in Rome off to a good start.
Elvis Memorabilia at the Rome Hard Rock Cafe
Two days later, we were on a walking tour that included the Roman Forum, the Pantheon and several other sites. As we walked along the Tiber River, the Castello San Angelo loomed ahead. This huge stone structure was started in the second century and had been added to several times in later centuries. It has served as a tomb, Papal residence, fortress and castle. What better place to find dozens of small vendor stands, right? They sold sunglasses, pocket books, food, tourist knick-knacks, and flea-market junk. I thought the latter might hold some promise, but I found no trace of Elvis.
However, in a display of books, postcards, posters, etc, I found a 9” x 12” picture of Elvis on tin. I’ve seen several types of these for sale in the USA, and you probably have, too. The price in Rome was 15 Euros, (about $23 – the exchange rate over there was terrible), so I didn’t buy it. Just the same, I was pleased with the discovery and took a picture of it.
Elvis Picture on Tin
Our last day in Rome included a tour of the Vatican Museum, St Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel, starting at 1:30. I decided to use my morning free time to walk four blocks from our hotel to a long street market. We had passed it several times earlier on foot or bus, but couldn’t stop. It was at least 50% food: fresh produce, meat, cheese and bakery goods. There were also a few stands selling what I wanted to check out – magazines, CDs and DVDs.
Sure enough, my second stop was a winner. On a shelf above head height, partially obscured by other items, there sat an Elvis DVD shrink-wrapped to a large placard. From the illustrations, it was obviously Jailhouse Rock, but the title had been changed to IL Delinquente de Rock & Roll. It cost 10 Euros (about $16), and I bought it on the spot.
Later, I had our Tour Director translate the title (The Rock and Roll Bad Boy) and several other phrases on the packaging. About half-way down on the placard, it says, “Action, fun, and lots of music.” At the bottom, it says, “Elvis has come back.” That said it all for me. I was in Rome, and Elvis had come through and satisfied my quest.
The Rock & Roll Bad Boy
After four days in Rome, our vacation took us to Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast in southern Italy, and I did not make any serious effort there to find more Elvis goodies. However, they kept showing up in the most unlikely places during our last week in beautiful Tuscany in northern Italy.
The first was the ancient city of Lucca, completely surrounded by a thirty-foot wide stonewall built 700 years ago. In a quaint little souvenir shop, I noticed a panel displaying dozens of one-inch wide metal pins. They depicted everything from Pinocchio to flowers – and, to my surprise, a face-shot of Elvis. It was priced at only one Euro, so I snapped it up.
Later that day, we went to Pisa to see the Leaning Tower and yet another huge ornate church (you can get churched-out pretty quick in Italy). As we waited for our bus outside the ancient stone arch entrance to the city, I killed some time at a souvenir stand. They had a big bin of DVDs, all shrink-wrapped to large cardboard placards. I flipped through them, and near the end I found another Elvis movie, Frankie & Johnny. I guess two people’s names don’t get translated into something different in Italian. Because this movie was never a big favorite of mine, I passed on purchasing it for 10 Euros, but I did snap a picture.
Frankie and Johnny
Three days later, our trip took us to what surely was the most unlikely place to find any Elvis treasures. Out in the middle of the gorgeous Tuscan countryside, the tiny city of San Gimignano sits isolated on top of a small mountain. Many ancient Italian cities built protective walls, but San Gimignano had three of them (remnants of the first built by the Roman Empire still exist). The town also boasted fourteen tall stone towers built many centuries ago by prosperous families as a show of their wealth.
When we first spotted San Gimignano from miles away, I actually said to myself, “This is one place you will never find anything Elvis.” Wrong. In a tiny, dungeon-like souvenir shop, I found another Elvis pin. It had a different photo on it, and it was only one Euro, so of course I bought it.
What Are the Odds of Finding Elvis Stuff in San Gimignano?
My next Elvis discoveries took place in Montecatini, the delightful Tuscan city that served as the base for our day trips throughout the region. One afternoon, we walked to a local food market to buy some Coke, wine, crackers, cheese and peanut butter (we ate supper in the room that night). As we wandered through the narrow isles, my ears picked up a familiar sound. It was the PA system playing “Hound Dog” by Elvis. I was tickled. The song ended as we got to the cash register, but “Promised Land” followed it. An Elvis double play. Too cool. After we paid, I wanted to wait and see if a third Elvis song came on, but my wife would have none of that.
My last Elvis fix came one night while we ate pizza in a casual restaurant in Montecatini. They had a couple of flat-screen TVs on the walls, and music videos entertained us while we ate. Most were familiar American or English tunes with strange new Italian videos that had no relationship to the lyrics or the singer. Then something came on that I had previously seen only on the Internet. It was the remix of Elvis’ old Sun record “Baby, Let’s Play House,” and the video was definitely ‘R’ rated. I’m pretty sure it never got the Graceland seal-of-approval, but I loved it.
My search for Elvis In Rome had expanded to include Tuscany, and it was a big success. As I have written in this column many times before, ELVIS IS EVERYWHERE!
© 2008 Philip R Arnold All Rights Reserved www.ElvisBlog.net