by Melinda Gallo

Pasqua bassa

This year Pasqua (Easter) came early, which they say is bassa. The weather has been rather cold and wet, and Spring feels quite far away. At 9 a.m. this morning, Alessandro and I headed outside so that we could go to the Duomo to watch the Scoppio del carro (Explosion of the cart), which is an old tradition in Florence on Pasqua. I had been in Florence a total of five years and never once made it out to see the carro, so I was even more excited.

Living in Florence :: Pasqua bassa

We first saw people dressed up in colorful traditional costumes in Piazza della Signoria. We then continued on to Piazza della Repubblica to get colazione (breakfast) in a bar. As we approached the piazza, we heard drums playing. There was a large procession and at the end of via Strozzi we saw the large, wooden carro, which was being pulled by buoi (oxen).

After the carro passed, we had colazione at Gilli and then walked to the Duomo where large crowds had gathered with the carro standing in front of the middle entrance to the church. We stood next to a few fiorentini (Florentines) who were explaining the Scoppio del carro to the Italian tourists nearby. I eavesdropped and realized that Alessandro had already told me most of what was going to happen.

The prete (priest) came out to bless the carro and then walked back into the church. The bells of the Duomo began to ring incessantly and I watched intently as the colombina (small dove) flew from the church's altar into the carro. Lights and fireworks went off for over ten minutes. It was so enchanting that I couldn't stop watching it. I filmed it all and didn't take many pictures during.

Once the festivities ended, it began to rain. Umbrellas sprung open all around us and people tried to get out of the crowd in both directions. For a few minutes, we were all squished together and it was difficult to even more in either direction. Once we finally broke loose, we ran down via Calzaiuoli to our apartment because Alessandro's parents were waiting for me.

Alessandro worked while the three of us went to have Easter lunch together in Castagno d'Andrea, which is about an hour north east of Florence and a little over 700 meters in altitude. When we arrived to the rustic trattoria, it began to snow. We drove past a little chiesa (church) that I had wanted to visit quickly, but it was already closed by the time we drove by.

We were escorted to our table where affettati (cold cut meats), formaggio (cheese) and crostini misti (slices of bread with different toppings) were already waiting for us. A bottle of local red wine was also on the table along with three empty glasses.

We started to eat as soon as we sat down. I kept looking out of the window at the snow as it slowly fell from the sky. I was happy to see the snow, but also surprised to see it at Pasqua.

There were a few large tables in other rooms with over 12 people sitting at each of them. The waitress asked us, "Volete un tris di pasta? (Would you like three dishes of pasta?)" We looked at each other and nodded enthusiastically while we were still eating our antipasti (appetizers).

One plate came out after the next: tortelli al pomodoro (tortelli in a tomato sauce), tagliatelle ai funghi porcini (tagliatelle with Porcini mushrooms, and tortelli di patate con sugo (potato tortelli in a meat sauce). We couldn't finish all the pasta, so the woman brought us a large plastic container to put the remainder of it in. She then asked us if we wanted fritto (fried meats and vegetables). Again, we said yes enthusiastically. She asked us if we also wanted tagliata (sliced grilled beef), but we knew that the plate of fritto would be enough because the servings were abbondanti (copious).

The cameriera (waitress) placed the large vassoio (tray) of fritto in front of us and we dove into it. I, of course, had to have some agnello (lamb) because it's one of my favorites. My suocera (mother-in-law) dressed the insalata (salad) and passed it to us.

We didn't end up eating all the food, but the cameriera still brought us another vassoio filled with dolci (desserts) and three coppe (cups) of macedonia (fruit salad).

Because they didn't have any latte (milk), the woman brought me a small bowl of panna montata (whipped cream). My suoceri (in-laws) don't usually put anything in their caffè (coffee), but after seeing me sip mine, they couldn't resist a dollop or so each.

We would've liked to have taken a walk after our enormous pranzo (lunch), but the sky was white with snow. My suocero (father-in-law) drove us along a winding road up the hill a little bit more until we got to a point where we had to go back because it was snowing so much.

My suocero drove back to Florence on a different road through Fiesole. I caught a glimpse of the Duomo from above and thought about how I was there a few hours earlier watching the Scoppio del carro with Alessandro.

For me, Pasqua was incredible from breakfast in centro (downtown), the Scoppio del carro, pranzo with my suoceri in a small Tuscan town, and lots of snow. Spring was said to have arrived, but the weather has proven that it's not around the corner yet.

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