by Melinda Gallo

Festa di San Giovanni e i fuochi

Today was a festa (holiday) only in Florence. It was the festa di San Giovanni Battista (Saint John the Baptist day), which is the patrono di Firenze (Florence's patron saint). I love how each city has its own saint and by extension its own festa. To celebrate, we went to see the fuochi d'artificio (fireworks) that went off under the Piazzale Michelangiolo.

Living in Florence :: Festa di San Giovanni e i fuochi

A few hours before the fuochi d'artificio were to begin, the streets were blocked off and along the Arno no cars or motorini (scooters) were allowed to pass. Thousands of people stood along the Arno on both sides as well as on top of the two main ponti (bridges) under the Piazzale Michelangiolo: ponte alle Grazie and Ponte San Niccolò.

Alessandro and I met up with his friends at 8:30 p.m. on the Ponte San Niccolò to watch the fuochi d'artificio together. They asked me when the last time I came to watch the fuochi d'artificio for Florence's festa and were surprised that I had never been before.

We stood in the middle of the ponte where I took the picture shown here about a half hour before the fuochi d'artificio began. It was probably the best place to be because we not only had a great view, but we welcomed the cool breeze.

I particularly liked watching the reflection of the fuochi d'artificio on the Arno with the city as the backdrop where I could see the tower of Palazzo Vecchio and the bell tower of the Santa Croce church in the distance.

During the fuochi d'artificio, the city was still. We could hear the fuochi d'artificio, but when there was a pause, we could hear the band playing for an elite crowd that was sitting in a protected area on Lungarno della Zecca Vecchia.

Cars and motorini were parked in the street, blocking traffic, and on the sidewalk of the ponte. When the fuochi d'artificio were over and the last three booms were heard, the crowds of people walking around were overwhelming. People walked in the middle of the ponte and along the lungarni, not letting cars pass. A few people commented about how they hope the ponte could support all this weight. It's one thing that the ponte be built for normal traffic, but I did wonder about having cars parked in every lane on both sides of the ponte and people standing along the railing for at least an hour.

Under the bridge, a few barche (boats) filled with people sailed by and stopped right before the embankment. It must have been an amazing experience to watch the fuochi d'artificio from the barche in the calm waters of the Arno.

The fuochi d'artificio were beautiful to watch and I thought a lot about how all the surrounding towns and cities didn't have the day off like here in Florence. Many shops were closed and most people had the day off of work in Florence. Some people even took off yesterday to take advantage of the long weekend.

I would certainly go out again to watch the fuochi d'artificio as it was incredible to see the entire city come to a halt, the street lights go off, and the city be lit up by the colorful fuochi d'artificio. Everyone we passed in the street seemed to be happy to celebrate today's festa and I felt honored to be a part of it.

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