Vacanze Romane (Roman holidays)

Possibly the most famous song by the avant-pop band Matia Bazar, ‘Vacanze romane’ (lit. Roman holidays) taps into the typical Italian nostalgia for the past grandeur of the country, and of its capital in particular. 

Written in 1983, it describes the point of view of someone looking back on the rich history of Rome as something already fading: the archetypical names of the past are being slowly substituted by empty rituals and affectations. The lyrics reference physical locations such as the Lungotevere, the wide riverside avenues, and the Trevi fountain with its superstition of tossing a coin into it as a wish to be back one day to see the beauty of Rome once again. Other semi-cryptic references are to operettas with Italian settings like The merry widow or The city of bells – mock operas that belie the inability of taking oneself seriously.

 

Italian lyrics

Roma, dove sei? Eri con me
Oggi prigione tu, prigioniera io
Roma, antica città
Ora vecchia realtà
Non ti accorgi di me
E non sai
Che pena mi fai

Ma piove il cielo sulla città
Tu, con il cuore nel fango
L’oro e l’argento, le sale da te
Paese che non ha più campanelli

Poi, dolce vita che te ne vai
Sul Lungotevere in festa
Concerto di viole e mondanità
Profumo tuo di vacanze romane

Roma bella, tu, le muse tue
Asfalto lucido, “Arrivederci Roma”
Monetina e voilà
C’è chi torna e chi va
La tua parte la fai
Ma non sai
Che pena mi dai

Greta Garbo di vanità
Tu, con il cuore nel fango
L’oro e l’argento, le sale da te
Paese che non ha più campanelli

Poi, dolce vita che te ne vai
Sulle terrazze del Corso
Vedova allegra, maîtresse dei caffè
Profumo tuo di vacanze romane

 

English translation

Rome, where are you? You were with me
Today you’re a prison, I’m a prisoner
Rome, ancient city
Now old reality
You don’t notice me
And you don’t know
How much I pity you

But the sky’s raining down on the city
You, with your heart in the mud
Gold and silver, and tea houses
City without any more bells

Then, dolce vita going
Along the merry Lungotevere
Viola concerts and frivolousness
Your smell of Roman holidays

Beautiful Rome, you, your Muses
Shiny asphalt, “Arrivederci Roma”
A little coin and there you go
Some come back and some go away
You do your part
But you don’t know
How much pain you give me

A vain Greta Garbo
with your heart in the mud
Gold and silver, and tea houses
City without any more bells

Then dolce vita going
Upon the terraces of the Avenue
Merry Widow, maîtresse of the cafes
Your smell of Roman holidays