A Florentine Tradition

In contrast to the Dickensian grime, smoke, and smog, to all the noise and confusion that characterized the modern city, there was the peaceful sunlit Florence of the Renaissance—a simpler, purer, more harmonious “magic city” of art and music, learning and piety, strength and beauty. Walter Kaiser

I went out for a long afternoon walk on my first day in Florence. In no time at all the sound of trumpets and rolling drums greeted me. The rhythmic beat came from a group of Florentines dressed in the traditional Renaissance costume of their neighborhood. In turn, they were followed by groups of men from other neighborhoods dressed in their distinctive costumes.

The parade went on for a good half hour as the marchers moved slowly down the crowded street from one end of town to the other. The ancient tradition lives on. This is the way it has always been in Florence.

The main event takes place in piazza in front of Santa Croce Cathedral, where the large, rectangular area has been heavily sanded and ringed with bleachers. It is there that the legendary Calcio Strorico takes place, as it has in various piazzas of Florence for over five centuries.

It is a brutal event involving soccer, rugby, and fierce fighting between the teams from each of the neighborhoods. A commentator put it this way: “Equal parts show and sport, the festivities surrounding this ruthless competition incorporate Renaissance folk traditions and garb.”

Tradition aside, it became so brutal recently that it was banned last year. They will try again this year.