Viareggio Carnevale 2014

This is our third year heading to Viareggio’s Carnevale celebration and each time, the floats and costumes never cease to amaze us.  The parade of Carnevale 2014 presented 15 floats, with some reaching heights as tall as 20 meters (over 65 feet)!  Over 1,000 people in 25 different artisan firms worked an entire year to create these giant floats made from paper mâché and their work definitely paid off.  At 15 Euro per ticket, the Viareggio Carnevale was able to bring in roughly 3 million dollars over the course of 5 different parade days.

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Cavalcata dei Magi – Epiphany in Florence

It was a very festive day

The Feast of Epiphany is celebrated on January 6th.  Epiphany marks the 12th day of Christmas when the three wise men (or magi) arrived at the manger bearing gifts for Baby Jesus and it is traditionally one of the most important holidays in Italy.  In Florence, the day is celebrated with the “Cavalcata dei Magi,” literally meaning the “Ride of the Three Kings.”  The parade starts in Palazzo Pitti, just south of the Arno River, and finishes in Piazza del Duomo, where the three wise men – riding in on horses – deliver their gifts to Jesus in the manger.  The parade is also accompanied by Florentines in medieval costumes, flag throwers, and a band.  This year, it is estimated over 700 people participated in the Cavalcata dei Magi to celebrate Epiphany.

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Calcio Storico, MMA style

Gloomy skies over the arena

Each year, four neighborhoods battle it out in a single-elimination tournament of calcio storico (historical soccer).  The Rossi (red) team represents Santa Maria Novella, the Verdi (green) team hails from the quartiere of San Giovanni, the Azzuri (blue) team comes from Santa Croce, and the Bianchi (white) team sports the colors of Santo Spirito.  Bobby and I missed the matches last year because we were out of town and missed all but the championship game this year as well.  The final game is generally played on June 24th, the holiday of San Giovanni (Firenze’s patron saint).  Luckily, we arrived back in Firenze on the 22nd and were pretty excited to see the game.  We waited outside the gates for over an hour before we were let into the “stadium,” which is really just dirt laid in Piazza Santa Croce surrounded by metal stands.  Not more than fifteen minutes after we were let in, the skies darkened and the clouds opened up.  There was a torrential downpour.  The calcio storico game starts with a large procession; there are medieval costumes, drummers, flag throwers, horses, etc.  The parade of people took over two hours.  Did I mention it was pouring rain?  We were absolutely soaked, but we really wanted to wait it out to see the game.  Needless to say, the spectators were getting pretty rowdy because everyone just wanted to get the show on the road.  There were definitely lots of curse words/chants directed at the directors pleading to forgo all the pomp and circumstance and just let us watch the championship.  The players finally came on the field and five minutes later, the announcer came on the loud speaker and said they were canceling the game due to inclement weather.  WHAT?  They couldn’t have told us this before the two hour parade?  So this brings me to today.  The game was rescheduled for today and of course, we had complete opposite weather.  It was sunny with 85+ degree temperatures.  Add the heat to the drunken crazy Florentines, we had the perfect recipe for a very “special” (second) experience.  As Bobby stated after the game: “una volta basta e avanza.”… [Read More]

Carnevale 2013

Beautiful princess

This is the second year we’ve traveled to Viareggio, on Tuscany’s Mediterranean coast, for Carnevale.  The city is celebrating its 140th year for the parade this year, and it expects more than one million spectators to visit in its two week duration.  Viareggio’s Carnevale is known for the satirical papier-mâché floats, highlighting political figures from Europe and America.  Each float can take up to a year to design and build!

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Italian Chess + Grappa Tasting

Chess board set on fire

For Lindsey’s last weekend in Italy, we decided to attend a not-so-ordinary Italian chess match.  Every two years, the town of Marostica puts on a live chess match, with people and horses serving as the chess pieces. It takes place in the main town square surrounded by a medieval castle and city walls. The story of the chess game dates back to 1454 when two noblemen, Rinaldo D’Angarano and Vieri da Vallonara, fell in love with the Lionora, daughter of the Lord of Marostica’s castle.  As was custom in medieval times, the men challenged each other to a duel to decide who would win Lionora’s hand in the end.  The Lord, not wanting to make an enemy of either suitor or lose them for his army, forbid the duel.  Instead, he commanded that the men settle the dispute by a chess match and Linora would then marry the winner.  Lionora, however, was secretly in love with one of the men already.  She informed the public, should the winner be her one “true love,” the castle would be illuminated by white light so that everybody could share their joy.  They replicate this match every two years with a fireworks display at the end, basking the castle in white light.  (Yep, I guess the right man won in the end!)

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Becoming Spanish Conquistadors – Seville, Spain

I wonder if the horse likes his hair braided? Probably not.

I love southern Spain.  It’s warm, the people are friendly, and there is lots to see and do.  Our next stop took us to Seville (Sevilla in Spanish, Siviglia in Italiano), the fourth largest city in Spain after Madrid, Barcelona, and Valencia.  I was pretty excited about this trip because I have heard so many great things about Seville.  We timed it perfectly – the Feria (or Festival) of Seville was going on while we were there, which meant that there was lots of eating, drinking, and flamenco dancing.

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Buona Pasqua! [Happy Easter]

Twirling fire

Italy does Easter (Pasqua) big!  It is probably an even bigger celebration than Christmas in this country and most people will agree that few places in the world put on a more dramatic Easter display than Florence.  This was my first Easter experience in our new home, and since Bobby was out of town, mom, dad, and I put our rain gear on and headed down the block to the Duomo to catch the celebration.  … [Read More]

Amerigo Vespucci: 500 Years Later


A few weeks ago, Bobby was asked by the American Consulate of Florence to participate in a celebration of the 500th anniversary of Amerigo Vespucci’s death.  Amerigo Vespucci (March 9, 1454 – February 22, 1512) was born in Florence, Italy to a family of wealthy silk traders.  The family’s estate (where part of the ceremony was held today) is in the historic center of Florence, near the Arno River and the home of the American Consulate General of Florence.  Vespucci’s vivid descriptions of the New World natives made his accounts extremely popular in Europe and as a result, it is his name – Amerigo – which eventually would be modified into “America” and given to two continents – and MOST importantly the United States of America.  :) … [Read More]

La spiaggia, Vino, e Carnevale… Buon weekend!

Most beautiful float

Every February, Italy hosts several festivals for Carnevale, the second largest being in Viareggio, on the western cost (just north of Pisa.)  We were graciously invited by Lou and Karin Frketic (OSC ’10 in Bologna) to check out the festivities, along with Paul Rogers (OSC ’11 in Lyon) and two other friends, Alexis and Mike.  Because the big parade for Carnevale didn’t kick-off until Sunday afternoon, we decided to meet in Montalcino, a small Tuscan city known worldwide for its Brunello wine.  While waiting on the others to arrive, Bobby and I also visited Grosseto, another southern Tuscan town and the Maremma Natural Park nearby…. [Read More]