Watching the World Cup in Florence
When I look back at the Europe trip that my sister and I took in 2006, I don’t think about exploring the Marais in Paris or eating moules frites in Bruges.
I think about watching the USA vs. Italy World Cup game on the banks of the Arno in Florence.
I hadn’t even known that the game would be taking place! We were invited by my good friend James, who was studying in Florence and a huge reason why we visited my beloved former city. World Cup games are always met with celebration in Florence — the game would be projected on a huge screen by the river.
We started by watching the sunset from Piazzale Michelangelo, easily the best vantage point in Florence.
Beneath us, the crowds were growing. The waving flags may have been red, white and green, but the Florentines were decked out in the blue shirts of the Azzurri, as Italy’s beloved national team is known.
Much to my surprise, there was even a tiny American ghetto! Filled with stars-and-stripes-covered quilts and U.S. students waving tiny American flags, we had our own space!
The Americans were first to score — and I had no idea what to do. I knew how to scream my head off when the Celtics scored at the Garden — but what do you do as guests in the other team’s country, a country that happens to be football-obsessed?
My fellow Americans and I looked at each other and shrugged. “U-S-A! U-S-A!” we whispered loudly.
Eventually, Sars and I found even better seats — atop a parked motorino.
But the best part is that we were seated behind the greatest rat tail of all time.
The game ended in a draw, 1-1. (Technically, the Americans had scored twice, but one goal wasn’t counted.)
The U.S. team didn’t last much longer in the 2006 World Cup, but Italy went on to win the whole thing. I was back in the States by then, and was thrilled to see greater Boston’s Italian neighborhoods erupt in celebration!
To this day, I will always root for the USA first — but Italy is a close second. Forza Azzurri!