Calcio Storico & Saint John’s After Party in Florence, Italy

One of the fireworks seen over the Ponte Vecchio on June 24th

It has been just over two weeks since Saint John’s little party here in Florence and things have settled down a bit. I almost forgot about all the fireworks and fun until a few days ago when I happened to walk through Piazza Santa Croce and noticed the stadium seating, which was set up for the famous Calcio Storico that takes place on the Saint’s Feast day (see here for more info). The seating, which is a bit of an eye sore to say the least, stays up for quite some time after the game to accommodate post-saint day spectacles such as the Calcio Storico charity match. This game, played between veteran Calcio players (calcianti), is only 5 Euro and will get you a seat and a taste of the official game while also benefitting a charity (this year’s charity was the Tuscan Tumor Association). In the photo below we see the traditional garb worn by the referees (of which there are six on the field at all times). They wear velvet caps and ostrich feathers along with bright and bold Renaissance-style pantaloons to make them easily identifiable if they happen to run into the fray to determine possession of the ball. Continue reading…

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St. John the Baptist = Patron Saint of Florence & One Awesome Guy

St. John the Baptist.
What a guy. Am I right?

Sculpture of St. John by Francesco Rustici from the Baptistery in Florence

I don’t think I need to get into it (I mean J to the B was baptizing people, living in the woods, eating berries and bark, and wearing his camel skin cloak way before hipsters were doing it.) Check out his full saintly story here.
For our purposes, we are really interested in the relationship between St. John the Baptist and Florence. Saint John is Florence’s patron saint. This essentially means he protects Florence and acts as a middleman between the citizens of Florence and God. Truth be told, he is the patron saint of several other locations, including Turin, Genoa and Malta, and even some groups like the Knights Hospitaller. (Yeah. He’s a pretty popular guy, so have some respect).
So why did the Florentines choose him? Continue reading…

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Mission Impossible: iced coffee in Florence

Although Italy boasts some of the best HOT coffee the world has to offer, they have yet to tackle the world of ICED coffee. The summers in Italy, especially Florence, can be brutally hot so you would imagine the idea of adding ice to coffee would have hit home here, but it has not.

Now, there is a perfectly good explanation for this. First, Italians really don’t put ice in anything, let alone coffee. Coffee for them should be super strong and not diluted in any way. They also, as I mentioned in a previous post on coffee, do not tend to drink lattes or cappuccinos as often as Americans do and these are really the coffee drinks that lend themselves best to being iced. The vast majority of Italian coffee breaks are spent drinking espresso shots that would be quite silly on ice. Finally, ice and other very cold drinks are, in general, not thought of “healthy” in Italy. This is especially true of ice-cold milk.

I am not saying that Italians are wrong. Think how often your dentist tells you not to chew on ice. In a similar vein, Italians see ice and iced drinks as shocking to your system and an unhealthy habit. That being said, when it is 90 degrees out and you need to be caffeinated, it is really hard to turn to a steaming hot cup of coffee. Continue reading…

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Best gelato in Florence (according to Kellin)

This subject is very close to my heart as I spent many years and hundreds of euro honing my gelato taste buds, testing flavor after flavor until I knew, without a doubt, the best that Florence had to offer. I present here my findings (along with some helpful tips to keep in mind for first time travelers).

Gelato (the national snack of Italy) is sold not by size (as in scoops) but by monetary value: one euro, two euro and up. The particular establishment decides how much that equates to in your cup or cone. I never get more than 2 euros unless it has been a really really bad day.
AVOID gelato places that are
a) near big tourist traps or
b) do not have their prices/sizes shown. I have had students pay as much as 10 euro for what should be 2 or 3 euro because they didn’t look for a clearly displayed price list.

THE WINNERS: Continue reading…

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