Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Andrea sings while Florence shines for Cecile

Today is our anniversary, so last night I had Andrea Bocelli sing to Cecile from the moonlit banks of the Arno River in Florence.

Well, he didn't sing Puccini's Gianni Schicchi just for Cecile, but she didn't mind sharing with the several thousand people who gathered near the river to see the re-lighting of the famous Ponte Vecchio.

Sunset lighting, the old way
The Ponte Vecchio (the "old bridge") is the span that the Medici family used to get from their offices in the heart of Florence to their Pitti Palace across the river ("Oltrarno"). While a crossing has been there since Roman times, the present bridge has been there since 1345. It was the only bridge in Florence not blown up by the fleeing Germans in World War II.
Fireworks and new light bulbs for the Ponte Vecchio

And that's a very good thing, as we were left with a beautiful piece of history. Back in the 14th century, the roadways on bridges commonly shared space with shops and houses.  The Ponte Vecchio was lined with butcher shops so they easily cleaned up by dumping their trimmings in the river.

When the Medici began making the trek to their newly-acquired palace, the stink of a pre-refrigeration meat market just wouldn't do.  So they kicked out the butchers and installed goldsmiths and jewelers. They also took over the top floors to give themselves a private passageway home.

Still festooned with windows, roof and telltale jewelers, the bridge today is a major photo op and shopping magnet for tourists. When the sun sets over it, cameras and tripods sprout like mushrooms on the upstream Ponte alle Grazie. After dark, the bridge lighting was better than it was with 14th century torches. At least a little better.

The floating lady floats, the guy runs on a treadmill
This week is the 60th anniversary of the Florence Fashion Center, so the Italian fashion designer Stefano Ricci celebrated by funding a re-do of the bridge lighting system with "green" and bright LED lights.

There is some irony in having a blind tenor throw the switch for the lights, but it didn't dampen the enthusiasm of the crowd nor our enjoyment of his singing in the cool Italian evening.

The build-up was a little strange, though. A French art troupe put on an "aquatic spectacle" that was as confusing as a French art movie. It was a parade in which the floats floated -- way out in the middle of the dark river where you couldn't really see them. I liked the waterborne old Fiat 500 and the 20-foot lady in white wig and elegance -- propelled by a man on a treadmill. Most of the others were either too vague in design or too far out of sight to appreciate them.
Amore mia, Cecile

The troupe, Illiotopie, seemed to have overlooked both perspective and timing.  Their worse faux pas was motoring/paddling the floats back upstream to the starting point past the entire curious crowd -- with all of their lights turned off. Why in the world they would want to sneak past several thousand people who didn't get a good look the first time, I'll never know.

But I can't complain. I spent an evening under the full moon on the river in historic Florence as Andrea Bocelli serenaded the girl of my dreams for the past 42 years.

Happy anniversary, my darling.

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