La Spezia is very much a working town, not geared for tourists. It isn’t glamourous, but it is very honest.
It gave us a chance to glimpse into a “real” Italian city, filled with hard working families. And when San Silvestro (our New Year’s) rolled around, we got to experience it as La Spezians.
After a large feast at the villa, Xan, Lewis, Meghan and I got dressed up went down into the heart of the city to celebrate.
The whole city must have been there. There is a large pedestrian concourse through the centre of town and everyone – babies, children, teens, adults, grandparents – was strolling up and down the streets to celebrate San Silvestro.
The first thing that hit us, almost literally, was the banging of firecrackers. All around us, constantly, unexpectedly, BANG! BANG, BANG, BANG!!! Children and youth were setting off firecrackers everywhere. Under cars, under people’s feet, even on top of the water in a fountain. Parents gave their kids lit firecrackers to throw! And everyone was laughing constantly at everyone jumping.
We learned to look around – if we saw some child rushing away from a corner, we’d rush away too, or risk a deafening explosion. Our collective adrenaline was pumping furiously.
But it wasn’t just firecrackers. People were setting off fireworks everywhere on the street. They were holding lit fireworks as shooting stars poured forth. We were covered in the smell of sulphur.
Pretty soon we got giggly and giddy. Like everyone else on the street, we jumped whenever something exploded or shot out near us, and laughed.
And then there were the bunny ears. Young men, mostly, were buying and wearing headbands with bunny ears that were lit up in different colours.
Bunny ears everywhere. A grand street carnival. There were merry-go-rounds and lights, and everyone eating gelato and crepes with Nutella and cream.
Stages were set up in each of the piazzas and at each there was a different type of band. We walked from piazza to piazza trying to decide where we wanted to be for the big countdown. Did we want to usher in 2012 with the Italian Klezmer band? Or with the outrageously dressed boy band singing a weird kind of gigolo Italian ska? Or with the dueling turntables, mixing oldie goldies, while boys in bunny ears and middle aged parents in ski jackets did a conga-line?
We decided on the flamboyant guys with a hodgepodge of retro costume bits — cape, frilly white shirt, long styled hair, red cummerbund, Paul Revere jacket, zebra pants. They were singing nothing that we recognized, loudly off key. We bought a bottle of Prosecco and four glasses – everyone on the street had bottles – and counted down with everyone else in La Spezia. As the new year broke, everyone around us was singing in Italian (maybe the national anthem?), and we mouthed along, made noise, drank our bubbly and agreed that it was definitely the most unique New Year’s we had ever had.