The Bizarre Secret of Assisi

In Assisi, Italy, there’s a destination that isn’t listed in any of the tourist books. It is virtually unknown, but ironically lies in the tourist information “office” of the Assisi train station. It is the imagination playground of Roberto Mazzeo.  Here he is, pontificating on angels, his theater troupe, the sanctity of brotherhood, and how utterly crazy he himself is:

He co-leads a theater production called “Il Teatro dei Mutaforma” (The Theater of Shapeshifters is a rough translation). The rock musical involves Saint Francis as a shape-shifting alien that eats magic mushrooms and promotes peace in the world. Mazzeo loves to go on tangents, and speaks extensively on existentialism and spirituality. His discourses are filled with clichés, like how the modern man lives as a “zohmbee” and that we are all sacred. But what is magical about Roberto Mazzeo and his studio is his infectious energy and the distinct creativity he displays.

When you walk past the tourist information desk littered with maps and guides, Roberto’s color pencil mural hangs proudly on the wall.

Yes, that is an alien with a big, sagging pair of tits. Roberto made an emphatic point to highlight this.

While we took the informal tour, space rock/electronic free jazz music played out of a speaker on the wall. I had no idea if this was Roberto’s work or inspiration, but it was fascinating. He talked about how he respects children for their energy and spontaneity. His studio had many toys and children activities around it, but no children because it was cold in December.

And above this table was an impressive dinosaur creation made of plastic hoses and pipes:

Mazzeo told us he gave up his life of prosperity and comfort for a spiritually rich life (sound familiar?). He talked about how he admires St. Francis because “he cray-zee like me.” I asked him if he talks to birds, and he laughed vivaciously. He then took a seriousness in how he does indeed commune with animals in the wild. It seems crazy, but you start to understand after spending some time in Assisi. Here is one of the many spectacular views:

I bought Mazzeo’s book, even though my Italian is pretty elementary. On the back, it reads in Italian, everyone has a guardian angel. Under this statement is a coyote cartoon that says, “mine is drugs.” It’s a perfect example of Mazzeo’s combination of humor, spirituality, and outlandishness. He describes himself as a Buddhist with St. Francis’ craziness. He talked about spending much of his life in Africa and Europe, at one point singing with Freddie Mercury. Anything he tells about himself may be fact or fiction, but it all gives bright color to the aging station. Mazzeo has much to give with his monologues and artistic presentation, and the best way to give back is with your time and attention. If you have an affinity for the bizarre, it is worth every minute.

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