Florence, June 24th 2009.
It is San Giovanni (Saint Joseph), and like any year Florence is in turmoil!
The celebration of the city’s Patron is an event taken very seriously: everything shuts down, only restaurants and souvenirs stands are open for business.
Many will spend the day cooking an incredible dinner, to be enjoyed with friends, before taking a stroll along the Arno River for the fireworks show. Some will sleep late in the morning, and walk into the center of Florence around 4 in the afternoon to assist the Traditional Costume Parade; they will bring their kids to show them the old Renaissance costumes, and scream at the “Sbandieratori” while they are executing their choreographies and throwing flags up in the air… It is like a Sunday with a Historical Parade.
A few Florentines though, have been waiting for this day all year around, and from early in the afternoon they will start filling up the tall and steep bleachers that have been set up in Piazza Santa Croce: today is the final match of the “Calcio Storico” tournament. For the players and their supporters this is the most important day of the year! In a nutshell: there are four teams representing the main four historical neighborhoods in Florence, each team has a crowd that follows them with banners, flags and the appropriate repertoire of choirs. Old City rivalries are expected to be resolved with the help of a ball, tons of “beef and muscles” and very few rules.
The game, especially in the past years, have been harshly criticized because of most of the players attitude: it is not really about the red and white ball or scoring a “Caccia” (goal), it is not quite about sports… It is more about the evil set of eyes of the opponent standing right in front of you before the kick-off, it is about what he or his fellas have done to piss you off! There have been games where at the first whistle of the referee a ball was thrown in the air (this is how the game starts), and just bounced untouched on the dirt…all around, a fist fight!
This year, since the mayor threatened to shut down the event for good, the teams were mixed, which made for a much lower level of testosterone on the field… and a quite boring game, with no broken spleens or bitten ears.
Join us today for a quick look to this controversial sporting event and for some home made pizzas we cooked in the ancient bread oven that was used in our estate “Fattoria I Bosconi”.