by Melinda Gallo

Beginning the new year with rain

This morning we woke up to rain (as well as a few more SMS from my friends, wishing us a "Buon Anno!"). Some might think that it's not the best weather to have on January 1st, but for us that means that it's not as cold outside! The snow has finally melted away since it first fell on Wednesday and we didn't wake up practically shivering at the sight of the snow outside.

Last night we left our house around 9PM with our tiramisù, cotechino (Italian sausage that I had to boil for 3 hours) and lenticchie (lentils). We briskly walked along the Arno to Piazza Pitti where our friends live. I didn't want to walk through downtown because of the crowds of people that would be outside. We had been hearing the erratic petardo (firecracker) go off outside.

A few of my friends told me to make sure I'm careful because so many people have petardi that I could get hurt by one. So, I was cautious.

It was misty outside and very cold. Cold enough that we were bundled up very well and wore hats and gloves besides.

At a few minutes before midnight we walked up to a room they have upstairs that has three and a half walls made of glass. We went up there to watch the fuochi d'artificio (fireworks) and hear all the church bells go off. There were fuochi d'artificio going off in all directions: toward downtown, Le Cascine, Bellosguardo, and Firenze Sud. We felt so priveleged to be able to see so many different fuochi d'artifcio all at once.

We could hear the petardi going off for the next few hours outside and in the alley below their house.

By the time we left at a little after 2AM, there were stil lots of people outside. It was now foggy and you could smell the smoke from the petardi.

Crowds of people slowly walked together around the area. The Ponte Vecchio was packed with people as well. We went back the way we came along the Arno river and over the Ponte alle Grazie bridge. I was afraid of meeting a large group of kids who were ubriachi (drunk) and have them light up a few petardi to throw our way.

I was hesitant to walk down via dei Benci, so we walked down Borgo S. Croce instead, which is a fairly dark one way street with one bar at the end. We got in front of Santa Croce and I saw a few youths hugging some random person and wishing him, "Buon Anno." He seemed to be smiling, but obviously didn't fit in with the group of youths. We walked past a group of people who were getting their picture taken in front of Dante. The man taking the picture seemed to be procrastinating, so his friend lit a petardo and threw it his way. It landed right behind me and luckily was a dud, so it didn't go off.

I wanted to pick up the pace to leave because I don't like the combination of alcohol and flames. Another group of kids more toward the center of the Piazza di Santa Croce lit a huge petardo that sounded more like a bomb. It startled us both and triggered a car alarm.

We were happy to get to our apartment even though it wasn't warm. We were happy to have had a great night with our friends, to have seen the beautiful fuochi d'artificio, and to have made it home safe without incident.

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