Photo of the Week: Holiday Lights!

Photo of the Week: Holiday Lights!

Holiday time here in Italy begins right away. Though Halloween has become more popular in the last few years, there are not very many public Thanksgiving festivities. Even with the various group dinners being planned across the city, they wouldn’t stand in the way of the lights going up as expected in mid-November. Every street will soon be covered in twinkling decorations in every imaginable design. It is one of our favorite parts of the holiday season here in Florence. There is nothing quite like an evening stroll in December under the lights, followed by a warm cioccolata calda. Sigh.

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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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Florence on fire?! Nope. It’s just Easter.

It’s almost Easter! Hands down my favorite holiday after Christmas. I mean, some huge bunny hides chocolate for me? Who comes up with this stuff? AMAZING. So, in honor of this holiday I thought I would write a little something about Easter in Italy, which is really quite different.

There is chocolate, yes. It does come in an egg form, of course.
But, there is something so much better in addition. There is a 500 hundred year-old cart…ON FIRE!!!!
Read on.

EXPLODING CART!!!

Easter, according to the bible, is the day on which Christ rose from the dead, otherwise known as his Resurrection. If this is at all foggy to you (it can be so confusing!), let’s review. Christ is captured and sentenced to death. He is crucified on what is called Good Friday. He is then buried and is, for all intents and purposes, dead for three days. On the third day, the Sunday morning after Good Friday, he is resurrected.

The Jewish holiday of Passover falls at the same time as Easter, as they are symbolically linked through the bible. Jesus was eating Passover dinner – also known as the Last Supper- with the apostles, right before he was captured.

Now, what hidden chocolate eggs and huge bunnies have to do with the above-described biblical events is anybody’s guess. Whereas, lighting a huge antique cart on fire using a flaming dove as the spark and enjoying the ensuing fireworks display makes COMPLETE sense in light of the events surrounding a holiday celebrating Jesus’ resurrection. Am I right? You think I’m kidding? Here is what our friends at Wiki say:
“In Florence, Italy, the unique custom of the Scoppio del Carro is observed in which a holy fire lit from stone shards from the Holy Sepulchre are used to light a fire during the singing of the Gloria of the Easter Sunday mass, which is used to ignite a rocket in the form of a dove, representing peace and the holy spirit, which following a wire in turn lights a cart containing pyrotechnics in the small square before the Cathedral.”
(Don’t believe me? Check here.)
Ok ok. Sheesh. We’ll explain! Continue reading…

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Florence doesn’t heart Valentine’s Day. That’s Amore!

Buon San Valentino!

For those love birds out there, don’t worry. This is not going to be an anti-consumerist rant on why Valentine’s Day is a vapid holiday that propels our already heightened commercialism. I am not going to write about the nauseating feeling I get when I see red and white Christmas decorations immediately replaced by other red and white decorations. I could devote some serious time to the matter, but I will leave that to the countless other advocates of anti-valentinism (it is a word, look it up). Instead, I would like to take a moment and reflect on Valentine’s Day in Italy.

See. Everyone thinks of romance when they think of Itlay.

From the country that inspired Romeo and Juliet and is known for conjuring up romantic images of Tuscan sunsets, vineyards, and couples embraced in gondolas gliding down the canals of Venice, you may find it surprising that Valentine’s Day in Italy is handled rather mildly. Italians treat this sweetheart’s holiday with a light-hearted playfulness and, in some cases, a goofy naughtiness. This may also come as a surprise if you stop to consider the origins of the day itself. Valentine’s Day is named after one or more early Christian saints – either Saint Valentine of Rome or Valentine of Terni. Both saints were martyred and subsequently buried in Rome. Valentines’s Day has been celebrated since 496 A.D. when it was established by Pope Gelasius I. Continue reading…

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