by Melinda Gallo

Celebrating San Giovanni

With Venus shimmering to the west and an almost full moon to the east, I stood on Ponte San Niccolò with my marito (husband) and our friends. We hadn’t planned to see the fuochi d'artificio (fireworks) in celebration of Florence’s patron saint, San Giovanni, because we were in the Maremma this morning walking along the spiaggia (beach).

We waited a half hour before the street lights went off and all traffic stopped. The city was still like I’ve only experienced a few times since I’ve been here. The show began with three big sparks in the sky each accompanied by a loud boom. The sky then lit up with a rainbow of different colors.

The crowds around us were silent except for a few remarks about how beautiful the display was and some oohs and aahs when the fuochi d'artificio burst high in the sky and lit up the sky like a Christmas tree.

I gazed at the Arno at times to see the reflection but with a slight wind, the colors all mixed together and were blurry like an impressionistic painting.

We stood on the ponte (bridge) for 45 minutes while the fuochi d'artificio continuously went off from the Piazzale Michelangiolo. I noticed the long lines of people along the Arno and a few others on small barche (boats) in the Arno.

It wasn’t until the final three went off that we knew the end had arrived. After we applauded, the city started up again. The streetlights went back on, people who parked their cars and motorini (scooters) on the ponte and streets, started them up to take off. The streets were chaotic with people going in all directions, zigzagging between the traffic in the street.

On the way home, we saw people setting lanterns off into the sky from the small beach area in front of Piazza Demidoff. They looked like little hot air balloons floating above the city, but going in different directions.

I love Florence’s saint’s day because it gives us time to pause, enjoy the city, and celebrate. The fuochi d'artificio are always a special treat because I always feel like time has suspended and we all share in the beauty of the city lit up with colorful lights.

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