Here in Rome, we’re always looking down. Not that there aren’t beautiful sites above eye-level (Michelangelo’s cupola, I’m looking at you), but with every step across this city, you’re meandering over 3000 years of history. From catacombs to hidden cities to everything in between, there’s always something cool downstairs. But on one small street in Trastevere, once you descend those stairs you’re in for a totally different kind of cool, a new birth of the cool, as Miles Davis might say (actually he probably wouldn’t, I was just trying to give myself some musical street cred with that reference). It’s on Vicolo San Francesco a Ripa, and when you duck your head to cross the threshold into this little locale I have in mind, you’re entering not another ancient, excavated home, or aqueducts built by Agrippa, but a divey, dark den with a a massive cocktail list, a medium sized stage, and a musical lineup that will make you feel like you walked into Nashville in the 60’s.
Big Mama, or, Rome’s home of the blues, as it likes to call itself, is a nearly 30 year old establishment. Their nightly shows cover the spectrum from jazz to rock to blues to ethnic with a fair amount of awesome cover bands thrown in for good measure. And, it’s one of the best deals in town to watch live music on a regular basis. Drop 15 euro for an annual “tessera” (or membership card) the first time you go, and return for free for the rest of the year. While you’re there, avail yourself of the sizable wine and cocktail list, which, unlike most music venues stateside, is actually priced normally.
Interested in checking it out? You’re in luck, because this Saturday night my favorite act – oldies cover band The Riding Sixties – is taking the stage to duke it out amongst themselves in their bi-monthly Beatles vs. Stones showdown. Classic rock, drinks, and a subterranean jazz club that unashamedly models itself after the venerable House of Blues? Sounds like my kind of night.
Where: Vicolo San Francesco a Ripa 8, Trastevere
How: To reserve a table (free, although you’re expected order drinks), call ahead or go online, although walk-ins are always welcome