In the late evening, I always enjoy a walk along the Arno and stop on a ponte (bridge) to take a photo of the sunset. Last night, however, I was on Ponte alle Grazie for a completely different reason: to watch the fuochi d’artificio (fireworks), which we call “fochi” in Florence to celebrate the Festa di San Giovanni, Florence’s feast day. I have only seen the fochi a couple of times since I’ve been living here. A few years ago, I watched the fireworks from Ponte San Niccolò and wrote about it in a blog entry.
I had tentative plans to go to my girlfriend’s friend’s house, but since I didn’t hear from her I decided to find a spot to watch the fochi alone. I walked to Ponte alle Grazie and watched the sun set behind the Ponte Vecchio. I crossed the ponte (bridge) and sat on the sidewalk against the cement portion of the wall. Slowly, the space against the railing filled up. After more and more people arrived, I stood up and faced San Niccolò. I watched the sky go from a bright to dark blue.
As soon as the streetlamps along the Arno went off, the fochi began. I was definitely not the only one mesmerized by the colorful lights that shot up like rockets and sparkled. I could see people all along the Arno on both sides, but it was amazingly quiet during the fochi. The only sound I could hear was the crackling and booming noises coming from the fochi.
For almost an hour huge wafts of smoke filled the Piazzale Michelangiolo, which I could see from the fochi as they lit up the sky above. It was odd to see the piazzale completely empty especially since that’s where you go to see the view of Florence and it’s not where the view is created.
For the finale, the noise from the fochi was so loud, it reverberated around me. If it weren’t for the people cheering at one point, I would’ve assumed I was alone on the ponte. I was almost sad when I heard the last three booms sound off, marking the end of the fochi.
I turned around to leave and realized for the first time that the entire ponte was completely full: cars and motorini (scooters) were parked on the street and people were everywhere. I was extremely lucky not only because I had a great spot on Ponte alle Grazie, but also because I only had to walk a couple of minutes to make my way through the crowds to get home. From my apartment, I could hear people walking around my area for hours afterwards.
I loved watching the fochi above the Arno last night. Even though I stood on the ponte by myself, I enjoyed celebrating my beloved city’s feast day.
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