by Melinda Gallo

Celebrating 150 years of unification

In less than two weeks, the Italians organized a festa (holiday) that they have never celebrated before today. On March 17, 1861, Italy was unified. Most countries would have celebrated that festa every year, but in Italy no one has ever declared it a national festa. And even though it is festa today. It will not be next year. Most Florentines I know arenít enthusiastic about the unification of Italy or this festa. They, like most Italians, identify themselves first from the city where they come from and then the country. My friends are Florentines first and Italians second.

Living in Florence :: Celebrating 150 years of unification

Most of the celebrations for this festa were held last night. There were concerts in many piazze and fireworks at the time when the unification supposedly took place, at midnight.

I decided to go for a walk around lunchtime when I saw the sun peeking out of the clouds this morning. By the time I made it out the door, it was beginning to sprinkle again. The light rain didnít stop me. I walked down via dei Neri to Piazza della Signoria.

The piazza was filled with people, mostly Italians. I stood under the loggia next to Medusa to take in the view of the piazza and the Palazzo Vecchio.

I was fascinated by David with the Italian flag waving behind him. I have never seen more than one flag on the Palazzo Vecchio and today they were waving from almost every window. After I took this photo, I walked down via Calzaiuoli where flags were lined up on both sides of the street.

Usually the only flags Iíve ever seen lined up in Florence is the cityís flag with the giglio (fleur de lys). Once in a while, the flags per area of the city are put on display.

For the first time since I have moved to Florence, I was surprised to see so many Italian flags lining the streets as well as hung on many buildings and even churches, except the Duomo. It was almost shocking to see so many people in the streets wearing scarves around their necks or buttons or hats with the colors of the Italian flag. I almost felt as if I were in a different city because I so rarely see the Italian flag.

Iím still amazed that Florence was able to organize so many events at such short notice and close the offices and schools for a unique festa that will not be celebrated next year. Obviously not many Italians were that enthusiastic about celebrating the unification of Italy if it took them 150 years to celebrate it.

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