Word of the Day – Buona Pasqua

Buona Pasqua: Happy Easter

We had a lovely day, although it didn’t end as we would have liked. After writing for about 4 hours last night, George read me his post on the Easter traditions in Florence. I laughed out loud several times. It was the funniest post he has written to date (and one of his rare writing stints for this blog, since he is so busy with school.) A few minutes later, he told me that he pressed the “save draft” button and lost nearly everything. What remains of his post is about a quarter of what he wrote. Makes me a little heart-sick because it was so good. He doesn’t want to post it until he can re-create what he wrote. In the meantime, I wanted to share a few pictures and a far more prosaic description of our Easter Sunday here in Florence.

The day started out with a few friends coming over to watch the Easter parade come right under the window of our apartment here on Borgo Ognissanti. We heard the drums at 9:00 and soon we saw people marching solemnly down the street in their medieval costumes. There was a drum and bugle corp, women in renaissance garb, and men dressed as soldiers who looked like they were straight out of the crusades (minus all the muck and grime from sacking and pillaging).

Next came the Renaissance cart, carefully rigged with fireworks to be exploded in front of the duomo after the Easter mass. This cart is pulled by 4 chianina bulls, the largest cattle breed in the world. These bulls can weigh up to 3500 pounds (nearly two tons) and their backs stand about 6 feet tall. They are absolutely enormous. They are decked out with flowers in their horns, celebrating spring. The cart is followed by women pulling small carts filled with flowers and eggs.

When this procession reaches the main square of town, the oxen are unhitched and led off for a nice breakfast in the neighboring Piazza della Republica. The cart is parked right outside the door of the duomo, and a wire is attached to it that goes inside the duomo. At the end of the mass, the bishop lights a mechanical dove on fire which then zips out the huge cathedral doors and comes into contact with the cart, starting the fireworks on the cart. While onlookers are waiting for this rigging up to be completed and for mass to end, they are entertained by traditional Tuscan flag throwers and music. This is also the time that lots are chosen for the mid-summer sporting classic – the calcio storico (historical soccer match) – in which men from the four quarters of Florence compete in a soccer match in which it is perfectly acceptable to tackle, throw punches, and brawl their way into position to score goals. The winning team receives a chianina bull (the huge ones that pull the cart) as a prize.

The fireworks display lasts about 10 minutes and at the end, 3 flags unfurl at the top of the cart. It looks and sounds like a battle scene, with smoke everywhere and the deep reverberations of gunfire (fireworks fire) echoing through the piazza. The procession then leaves the piazza to the sounds of drum and bugle.

It began to rain about 45 minutes before the fireworks were to begin, which thinned the crowd considerably. Several of our party went home to get warm, but the stouter souls stayed for the entirety. At the end of the fireworks display, the revelers in costume process out of the square, followed by squadrons of amazed onlookers. We found a group of Renaissance dudes hanging out on the corner and wandered over for a photo. They were happy to oblige. My friend, Diana, and I got into the middle of the big group of guys for photos. They began joking and laughing. When George tried to join in the photo opp, they said, “No, only women!”

A few of us returned back to our place to finish off the mimosas, fresh ricotta, deviled eggs, and other easter delights. This unique and colorful festival is one of the highlights of the spring season here in this city of history and art.

Here are few photos of highlights from the day:

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Word of the day: Giardino

Giardino (jar-DEE-noh); Garden

It is spring in Florence and we are getting some much needed rain, which is bringing out the leaves and blossoms in great abundance right now. It seemed appropriate to head out to a green space between the rain showers and enjoy the fresh air and flowers. We could have headed for the Boboli Gardens, the enormous green jewel that sits behind the Pitti Palace, but we opted instead for the smaller, less well known Bardini Gardens.

The Bardini Gardens are in the Oltrarno (the area on the other side of the river from the main area of Florence) area, up the hill toward Piazzalle Michelangelo. This means that not only do you get to meander through the beautifully laid out garden, you also get spectacular views of Florence.

I’ve been waiting until April to go there because I knew the wisteria would be in bloom. I think I’m still about 2 weeks too early to see them at their peak, however. That just means I will have to return. There is a coffee house and lots of great little spaces to sit in the garden and read or just listen to the birds.

Here are a few of my favorite photos of the garden and the views out over Florence.