by Melinda Gallo

Mario Biondi singing under the stars

I hadn't heard of Mario Biondi until only a few months ago. I had heard his most popular song, "This Is What You Are" on the radio and imagined some newly discovered American R&B singer. But when Alessandro brought over one of his CDs and I listened to it, I was surprised that the he was Italian because his voice was so deep and soulful, a bit like Barry White's, and he sang in impeccable English.

Living in Florence :: Mario Biondi singing under the stars

Alessandro bought tickets to Mario Biondi's concert for us and two for his friend for his birthday. We met up at Il Rifrullo for an aperitivo (apéritif) because the concert was being held above San Niccolò in Piazzale Michelangelo and we'd just go up the stairs afterwards. We thought the viale (large avenue) that we'd need to take to get there would have been crazy as they limited the traffic and we'd all be trying to leave at the same time.

I had the idea of going to Il Rifrullo for the aperitivo because of the fantastic brunch I had a month or so ago. But, the aperitivo wasn't quite as nice as I had expected. Both Alessandro and his friend told me, "C'è poca roba qui." (There's not much stuff here.) Alessandro had told me about another place near La Torre di San Niccolò (San Niccolò tower) where there is a lot more to eat.

After our aperitivo and my glass of prosecco (sparkling wine), we headed up the stairs. I was surprised that two of the three guys hadn't gone up the stairs in years, and one of them hadn't even taken them before. It just seems so normal to me to go to the piazzale (large piazza) by walking up the stairs, but I guess if you go up by car or by motorino (scooter), you'd never take the stairs.

We arrived at the top as the sun was setting and it was truly a beautiful sight. I don't think I've ever been up at the piazzale at this time before. The city glowed below and I couldn't help but take a few pictures.

We sat down in our seats in the middle toward the front of the palcoscenico (stage) built for a summer concert series outdoors. The direttore d'orchestra (orchestra conductor) came out and the audience applauded, and as soon as Mario Biondi appeared, the crowd cheered.

My favorite song that he performed was an omaggio (tribute) to Barry White, "Just the Way You Are." It mi ha fatto venire i brividi (sent chills up and down my spine).

I noticed that Mario Biondi interacted a lot with the public and there were quite a few friendly hecklers in the crowd. Being toward the front, we missed a lot of what the hecklers said, and even he had to ask them to repeat what they said a few times.

At one point, he was walking off the stage at the end of the song, and someone yelled out, "Dove vai?" (Where are you going?) Mario Biondi went behind the curtain and played nascondino (hide-and-seek) with the crowd. He eventually came back out to sing an encore and the crowds rushed toward the palcoscenico to sing and dance in the aisles.

We walked back down the poorly lit stairs and peeked out at Florence through the trees. The birthday boy suddenly stopped and said, "Ma che spettacolo, ragazzi." (What a sight, guys.) I couldn't agree more. It was an enchanting evening above my beautiful city under the stars listening to Mario Biondi sing soulfully about love.

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