This is not photoshopped.
On April 30th, the city of Florence celebrated Notte Bianca, an all-night event with performances, exhibitions, and late opening hours for stores and museums all over the city. The night leads up to May 1st, the day of the worker, a holiday from work for almost the entire city. Each year the Notte Bianca events focus around a theme that plays out all over the city’s main piazzas and public buildings. The theme this year was “Volare,” to fly, and it included incredible displays on tightropes, dances the sides of buildings, opera singers hoisted into the air by cranes, and enormous sculptures floating overhead, such as the one pictured above in Piazza Santa Croce.
This performance was thanks to an amazing troupe from France called Plasticiens Volants. The main actors were enormous (we’re talking 3-story building big) balloons filled with helium that were either stationary, moved through the crowds via handlers, or actually worn on the ground and brought to life by actors. Each performance began with two large birds floating into the sky and through the piazza. These were soon followed by an enormous blimp, complete with Leonard da Vinci-inspired cockpit with wings and manned by a woman in ethereal white robes. As she floated into the air, beating the wings of her flying machine, the sky was suddenly filled with 5 or 6 more large balloons in the shape of planets. Our explorer had gone from the sky, into space. Music played on loud speakers as the handlers made their way through the crowd bringing the balloons to life and playing out the scene in the sky above.
It was such an incredible site and so ethereal we stayed up and watched both performances that night. Occasionally the handers would bring the balloons quite close to the crowds and you would be reminded of their incredible size, especially in reference to the female pilot. It was almost too much to comprehend. I felt as if I were a child again, at the circus or a theme park for the first time, where everything appears too magical to be real, and yet it is.