L'Italia è in finale!

Dave and I decided to head down to San Niccolò where the partita (soccer match) would be held on a few big screens outside. We didn't leave the house until after the primo tempo (first half) with a score of 0-0. The restaurants that we walked past were virtually empty with the staff sitting in front of TV sets watching the game. The Piazza Santa Croce was quiet with hardly anyone around.

We walked along the Arno and then across the Ponte alle Grazie. We saw one taxi and not a single bus around. We only came across a handful of people; however, we could hear people cheering and the commentators discussing the game from across the river at San Niccolò where we were going.

We arrived at San Niccolò where there were hundreds of people crowded together watching the partita on a large screen in front of the Porta San Niccolò. I wouldn't know for sure how many people were there, but I'd say in all between the multiple levels leading up to the Piazzale Michelangelo, there must have been a thousand of us. People were lined up along the Arno on the sidewalk and some were even sitting in the street. The street was blocked off by the police, so only pedestrians and a few bikes and motorini (scooters) could go by.

Dave and I walked up to the first level where there were two bars and a stage where the partita was being projected. The partita was also being projected directly on the Porta San Niccolò, a stone structure, for those people who were standing and sitting on the upper levels toward the Piazzale Michelangelo.

We watched the game standing up along with everyone else. The crowd was a huge mix; there were many different nationalities there cheering on the Italian team. There was only one guy with a German flag tied around his neck, but no one paid much attention to him.

Everyone was tense as no one scored during the first 90 minutes. We all cheered when Germany missed a goal or kicked the ball out of bounds, and we rooted Italy on when they would get close to the goal. "Italia, Italia, Italia..." would start in one area of the crowd and soon everyone would be cheering along. When Italy missed a few shots, many people in the crowd would say, "Madonna ragazzi!" and cover their faces in disbelief. There were many other parolaccie (bad words) that I heard as well; il calcio (soccer) seems to bring out the best and the worst in us.

The first 15 minute overtime was about up and we all couldn't wait for the next 15 minute overtime. We were all thinking that just one more chance is all the Italian team needs.

And then in the 118th minute, Italy scored a goal. Everyone who was sitting jumped up to their feet. We all began cheering, whistling, clapping, and screaming. Many people stopped watching the game because of all the excitement and then suddenly everyone looked at the screen again as Del Piero scored a second goal in the 120th, and final, minute. Pandemonium broke out in the crowd.

Many people picked up their phones to try to talk to other people about the game, but the noise was so loud, I'm sure they couldn't hear much. Others were text messaging people to express their joy.

Dave and I walked back over Ponte alle Grazie along with a huge crowd of people. Almost everyone was whistling, clapping, cheering, honking horns, and waving flags. Everyone had a smile on their face, and it seemed to be one of the most joyous moments of the year.

At almost 1AM now, there are still many, many people out in the street celebrating. And, I'm certain it won't end for a while.

The Italians are now playing in the finals on Sunday. Now the only question is: will it be against Portugal or France?

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