Thursday, July 21, 2011

Festa di San Giovanni: Calcio Storico Parade

June 24th = Feast of Saint John the Baptist = No school!!!

Holiday!!! Yay!!!

After a brutal week of non-stop sight-seeing and lectures, we got a day off to go and celebrate the patron saint of Florence. In honor of St. John the Baptist the majority of us slept in :-D and then went off to check out the happenings about town.

I had wanted to go and see the Calcio Storico match, but unfortunately tickets had sold out and instead I had the pleasure of walking around the city to see some of the festivities and to watch the parade of players and Florentine citizens in costume.

I started my adventure by going to see Dante's church, the inside of which I had wanted to photograph because it is supposedly where the real life Beatrice was married. On my previous visit there, I saw a painting depicting her marriage that I quite liked:

The church is teeny-tiny, but it feels very genuine. I can picture candles burning and the local citizens attending mass. The painting shows a group of women walking down the narrow Medieval streets in their Sunday finery.

Here is the painting that I liked. It is Dante (left) and Beatrice (right). According to the plaque below it and the help of GoogleTranslate this is " Dante meets Beatrice P. accompanied by the mother of Cilia Caponsacchi and Monna Tessa a painting by Mario D'Elia 1991." Awww... Florentine true unrequited love!

Part of my motivation for coming this way, may also have had something to do with craving the above. Albicoca and Fragola sorbetto! (Apricot and Wild Strawberry Sorbet!) Mmm mmm good!

Hearing drum beats and the humming of a nearby crowd I headed towards the Piazza della Signoria (the square in front of the Palazzo Vecchio and the Uffizzi) which was one of the central stops for the San Giovanni parade in which the Calcio Storico players and other citizen in Renaissance finery march. The parade begins at Santa Maria Novella and ends in the Piazza Santa Croce on the field of battle!

The section of the procession that I got to see included three of the teams participating in the tournament: Santa Maria Novella's Rossi, the Bianchi for Santo Spirito and the Verdi from San Giovanni. These teams were from three quadrants of the city. The fourth are the Azzuri from Santa Croce, which I unfortunately didn't see.

Here are some pictures:

The Bianchi (White Team) from Santo Spirito. This is the team from across the river (where the real Florentines live) and according to one of the clerks at our hostel, the team who is favored to win.


The Rossi from Santa Maria Novella (holler!). This is the team from my quadrant of the city! I have to say that if anything, this parade of men reminded me of the procession of gang members in Martin Scorsese's Gangs of New York.

The Verdi from San Giovanni (the Green from the Saint John the Baptist quarter). Again Gangs of New York! Especially that really tall guy. He reminds me of the Butcher character..:P

After the teams of players there were several very elegantly dressed men on horseback with attendants:

These elegant men were followed by groups hauling canons

Drummer Boys (that's what I'm calling them for now as I haven't done any research): 

Men in Armored Helmets with Spears:

 Men of the cloth (this one was quite somber). I don't know whether they are dressed up or actual men of the cloth (interesting either way):

And some individual Florentine faces for you to see:

This was one of the flag bearers. I remember wanting to have a picture of the flag unfurled and I'm so glad that I turned back to snap it because you can see the crowd behind him and the porch on which some of Florence's masterwork sculptures still stand. Behind him you can make out Donatello's Perseus:

Some more individuals. I'm not sure, but it was my sense that each of these guys represents either a family or a Florentine guild because of the crest they wear on their chest.

More drummer boys! These ones remind me a bit of candy canes:

And now for the best part. At the end of the parade is the section for which it is quite famous. The flag throwers. I really, really enjoyed them. The flag throwing is choreographed to the drumbeats and the throwers were in perfect synch! It was beautiful to watch!

You can see them coming into the piazza behind this drummer!

The flags they are throwing are the official flags of Florence. If you look closely you can see that they wear the Fleur de Lys in a crest on their chest.

So cool! I don't know that the activity itself is so impressive, but the ambiance of the Piazza della Signoria on the Festa di San Giovanni, with the crowds of tourists and locals alike, children giggling, drums beating... the throwing of standards- it all becomes something thrilling and exciting!

Here you can make out the Fleur de Lys of Florence, with the additional flowers between the central three petals.

As the parade continued past the Piazza della Signoria I walked ahead and took some more pictures of the procession coming up the smaller medieval streets. 

So there you have it. The San Giovanni parade! A little bit Disney, a little bit Gangs of New York, a lot Italian- and Florentine specifically :)

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