Sunday, January 2, 2011

Florence in red underpants, Buon Anno!

Florence (Firenze) is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany and of the province of Florence. It is the most populous city in Tuscany, with 367,569 inhabitants (1,500,000 in the metropolitan area). This place seems pretty popular, art history being the main magnet; so our first stop was to visit old mate David. I am actually kind of glad for all the attention and photo snapping he was getting, anything to boost his ego. (I am 100% certain he would of been teased in the locker room growing up with jokes about picolla salsiccia/ small sausage. Kids can be so cruel.) Actually the majority of the statues on show were of a risque nature, awkward positions to say the least and boasting more muscles than manhood. History did not have a PG (parental guidance) rating. And why were the ladies required to wear leaves down there in the sculptures and not the men?
We had a lovely first day, and even better atmosphere on the day to follow. The weather cleared and their was the festive feel and anticipation of a new year in the air. We roamed the streets, ate Gelati in the middle of Winter and way too early in the day (if there is such a thing), and I like to think that we all took particular joy in the architecture and beautiful surroundings.
Historical Fact: Florence Nightingale, famous for revolutionizing the field of nursing, was named for the city of her birth.

Random Fact: Did you know that some of Italy’s finest and most famous artists and celebrities came from or made Florence their home? The artistic inspirations of the great sculptor Donatello and painters Rafael and Michelangelo were born in Firenze. Other important historic figures who lived in Florence include Amerigo Vespucci the explorer, Niccolo Macchiavelli the philosopher, Galileo Galilei the astronomer and haute couture fashion designers such as Guccio Gucci, Roberto Cavalli and Salvatore Ferragamo.

December 31 is called La Festa di San Silvestro, and New Year’s Day is called Capodanno. Capodanno is toasted with spumante or prosecco, both Italian sparkling wines. After a big meal, many people head outdoors to dance in the streets and to enjoy fireworks displays at midnight. (I think this is a common occurrence anywhere in the world.)

I feel like we should warn restaurants of our arrival. Blowing trumpets, waving streamers and wearing our 'team Gonzalez' colours, (for interest sake, it would be purple and yellow), similar to rowdy football supporters on their way to a grand final; we should warn others of the mayhem about to unfold. We thought that all restaurants would be fully booked so we rushed to find an upmarket restaurant, with great atmosphere, good music, and very 'hip'. They offered a semi-set menu, (standard of any annual festive occasion), and accepted us into their busy downstairs restaurant with open arms. Only to usher us upstairs, to what once again felt like our own private dining room. I am definitely not complaining, the privacy was lovely, but beginning to think people do not want us seen. As we ate our meals, 3 other couples were seated, only to review the menu, (or us) and leave embarrassed, "Sorry we changed our minds". Okay, so now a little paranoid, was it something I said?

We dined on octopus, cured meats and cheeses, scallop and prawn ravioli, cheese filled pasta with black truffle, king prawns, souffle, tiramisu and of course a bottle of prosecco. In true family form, waving our banners (serviettes) and dancing to music; we once again left a lasting impression. Son smashed a glass into a million pieces on the floor and ensured that every table in the upstairs restaurant had their chairs pushed in; daughter tore every piece of bread from one into eight, only to inform "I'll eat it later"; Husband and I agreed that as a family we set a great festive atmosphere. Although the staff were a little too sufficient in clearing our table and saying their farewells.

A couple of traditions which showcase Italian superstitions are wearing red underwear on New Years Eve (it’s supposed to bring good luck), and throwing old belongings out the window at midnight (out with the old, in with the new – year). The latter is particularly important to be aware of just in case you’re wandering Italian streets around midnight, as larger belongings, such as furniture, have been known to come flying out of windows. We were obviously preoccupied with our celebrations. Husband asked me on the 2nd of January as he was digging in our suitcase, "What were the red undies for again." Bit late now, guess we will just have to buy a rabbits foot this year instead.

Florence hosted a big outdoor event on New Years Eve which show cased popular music acts before and after fireworks on four different stages. The main stage being 50 metres from our room. (Perhaps I did not research hotels as well as I had anticipated, although now it was evident why we paid so much for a room that smelt like dead animal.) In hindsight, we appreciated this position as my husband and I toasted in the New Year out our window while watching the fireworks and the children comfortably slept. Although, we did feel as though we were in a human popcorn machine for the following hours, firecrackers were set off by pedestrians outside our window... for hours... not so pleasant. My husband ventured out for a quick dose of atmosphere and returned saying it was a celebration of all walks of life; Nonna and Pa hand in hand, Punk Rockers, a father teaching son how to light firecrackers behind bins, celebrating teenagers, and even an old lady in a motor chair. From our opened window, I witnessed, noise and smoke, similar to a university riot.

IF Interesting Fact

In 1339, Florence became the first city in Europe to have paved streets. So I guess the saying "All roads lead to Rome", should really include "But they start in Florence."

Ahhhhhh Beautiful Florence. we shall see you again!

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