A Florence New Year’s Guide 2019-2020
As 2019 draws to a close, the city of the Renaissance gets ready to celebrate an ending and a beginning with a Florence New Year’s in grand lunar style. This year, mankind commemorates 50 years since landing on the moon, and the city has organized 20 events in 20 venues awaiting 2020, all inspired by the moon. The city of Florence and organizers of this special night invite Florentines and visitors of all ages to come into the streets, piazzas and churches and even the tramway to enjoy the music, performances, dancing and merrymaking for all ages beginning early December 31 and continuing through the night into 2020.
Mayor Dario Nardella announced that Florence’s New Year will be dedicated to the environment with bins placed around the city to collect recyclable plastic items. Glass is strictly prohibited. Buses 1, 6, 11, 14, 17 and 23 will be extending service until 2:30 am, while the tram will be operating all night through 5 am, when it resumes normal operating hours.
This special night is curated by F-Light, the Florence Light Festival, and through January 6 the “face” of the city will also be transformed by artistic installations and projections. Details on all happenings can be found on December 31 in the Sala d’Arme in Palazzo Vecchio and each piazza will also offer a mobile information point.
Events commence the morning of the 31st at 10 am in the Museo Novecento of 20th Century Art in piazza Santa Maria Novella with free admission all day and free guided tours. The museum, which installed a voting cubicle where visitors can vote on a list of 10 wishes for 2020, announces the most desired wish in early January.
Le Murate (Piazza Le Murate) hosts two guided visits (in Italian) of the former monastery and later prison complex turned cultural center. Tours at 5 pm, guided by City Councilor Andrea Vannucci, and 5:45 pm, guided by City Councilor Alessandro Martini can be reserved by calling 055-247-6873. Later in the evening Baba Sissoko, a musician from Mali called the master of the “talking drums,” entertains with an array of traditional percussion instruments and vocals. A DJ set follows at the Caffè Letterario. Reservations are required for dinner and the show, complete with midnight bubbly (tel. 055-234-6872).
Single parents with their children are invited to a celebration at the Limonaia of Villa Strozzi (via Pisana 77), where starting at 7:30 pm, guests will find a buffet, child-friendly activities, a room where kids can nap, and other areas that will host a DJ set and a movie screening, all in an environment designed to be homey. Those interested in participating should email email@example.com; there is a suggested donation of €20 to join the festivities.
Palazzo Vecchio’s Salone dei Cinquecento hosts a concert featuring the compositions of Mozart, Handel, Bach and Vivaldi with the Contempoartensemble String Orchestra from 7 to 8:30 pm; for reservations, call 055-276-8224. Just outside, a treat for the entire family awaits in the Piazza della Signoria, taken over by the Cirko Vertigo with its acrobats, aerial dance and video projections on the facade of the Palazzo Vecchio, all inspired by the moon. This circus event will delight children and adults from 10 pm until 1 am.
Piazza Duomo sets the scene for “He Made the Moon and Stars,” a gospel show uniting passion, beauty and religion ongoing from 10 pm through 1 am. Nearby Piazza San Lorenzo continues the theme with soul, jazz, R & B, gospel and blues music highlighting American singer Eric B. Turner, “The Soul Doctor.” Music continues with Neapolitan James Senese on saxophone and vocals performing his Latin flavored jazz through the countdown.
Merrymakers wishing for some winter sport action might want to head to the Fortezza da Basso to try a few turns on the ice on Europe’s largest ice-skating rink (10 am until 7 pm). From 7 pm onwards, folks can enjoy music, animation and street food. An extravaganza on ice “Circo Nero on Ice from Swan Lake” begins at 10 pm. The action continues from 11:30 with the gala “The Piazza that Dances” including a DJ set by Circo Nero filled with theatre, dance, animation and circus acts ushering in the new year.
Entertainment can be even found even on public transport as riders on the T-1 and T-2 tram lines will be regaled with music by the young musicians of the Tuscan Youth Classical Orchestra between 7 and 11 pm.
At the Santa Maria Novella complex visitors can choose between an array of happenings for children, teens and adults. The Sala del Turismo in Piazza Stazione 4A screens films on the lunar theme between 2:30 and 9 pm. A huge moon, installed in the center of the Great Cloister of the church, highlights an acrobatic performance “On the Moon” from 6 to 8:30 pm. In addition, readings, dancers, music and light shows, ongoing in the cloister from 5 to 10 pm, invite those wishing to celebrate an early New Year’s. Later, stroll over to the Santa Maria Novella churchyard between 10:30 pm and 1 am for a classical concert presenting a repertoire dedicated to the waltzes and polkas of the Viennese tradition. In the loggia, the Evolution Dance Theater presents iconic shows accentuating the magic of light with illuminated dancers from space accompanied by futuristic laser harp music at 5:30 and 10 pm. Even Galileo Galilei, the 16th century astronomer famous for observing and investigating the skies, is expected to make an appearance at 5:30, 6:30 and 7:30 pm.
Three loggias in the center of Florence organize events geared to families occurring simultaneously. The Loggia del Grano presents Italian music and juggling until 10 pm. The Loggia del Porcellino offers dancing to music of the 70s and 80s enhanced by a lunar themed video art installation while the Loggia del Pesce hosts DJs and pop music until 1 am. In the piazza fronting the basilica of Santissima Annunziata, celebrators of all ages can enjoy a festival of artists, headlined by Lorenzo Baglioni and Cristiano Militello, with music, comedy and live dance music (10 pm to 1 am).
Cross one of the bridges to the Oltrarno, literally the other side of the Arno River, where the streets will fill with the music of two marching bands in New Orleans style. Zastava Orchestra plays Balkan style music, inspired by Greek, Bulgarian and gypsy rhythms. The Pulsars, a young band using percussion instruments created with recycled materials, will also wind its way through the streets. Fans of dance should visit Piazza Poggi from 10 pm to 1 am to enjoy “Dancing in the Moonlight,” featuring choreographies by three diverse artists accompanied by light installations on the façade of San Niccolò Gate, a 14th century tower. “New Year on the Moon” takes center stage in Piazza del Carmine. The show, comprising Florentine singer-songwriter D’Iuorno, a DJ set, a karaoke competition, animation, games and much more promises to please all ages with lots of audience involvement. Rap by Mr. Rain follows with Martina Attili, of X-Factor fame, bringing in the new year.
Scandicci’s Piazza della Resistenza hosts its own New Year’s Eve fete with Italian folk group Bandabardò, known for its political satire and hits “Tre Passi Aventi” and “Bondo Bondo!,” taking over the stage. The show, opened by Kids, winner of the Young Rock Scandicci contest, proves to be entertaining and energizing for all.
Restaurants and clubs all over the city plan special menus where diners can linger over a festive meal often accompanied by music, dancing and a midnight toast. Reservations are essential.
Located right by Ponte Vecchio on the Arno River, Golden View (via de’ Bardi 58/r) is offering New Year’s Eve dinner from 7 pm onwards with a view on the fireworks over the Arno. The extensive menu offers a range of seafood that is the focus of appetizers, first and second courses, with wines, spumante and champagne sourced from the Golden View cantina, one of the largest in Florence.
La Cucina del Ghianda (via dell’Angolo 85-87/r) offers three appetizers, two first courses, a choice of a second course between fish, jumbo shrimp and clams flavored with tomato and lemon grass or filet of beef with truffles and porcini mushrooms plus a creative twist on two Tuscan desserts, including zuccotto (sponge cake with ricotta filling with a chocolate topping) for €80.
The Salumeria Verdi deli (via Verdi 36/r), known by all as “Pino’s” because of the kind proprietor, will remain open all night on January 31 until 6 am (and even through breakfast if there are clients) on New Year’s Day. Pino, wife Antonella and daughter Martina are offering smoked salmon, insalata russa (elegant potato salad), truffle pasta in addition to lentils, cotechino (pork sausage) and much more. A pasta dish costs €4 and a main course €6. A selection of wines and bubbly is also available.
The New Year’s Eve menu of Boccanegra (via Ghibellina 124/r) comprises crostini (toasted bread canapés) topped with black truffle cream, as well as homemade pasta, filet of beef in a wine sauce, a side dish of traditional NYE lentils, followed by rice pudding with an orange/almond sauce, panettone, pandoro and torrone, a choice of white or red wine, with coffee and a spumante toast for €90.
The Odeon Cinema offers an evening package for film lovers. Debuting Knives Out, a murder mystery thriller with an all-star cast of Daniel Craig, Jamie Lee Curtis, Toni Collette and Chris Evans, whodunit fans will surely be pleased. The screening, in English with Italian subtitles, begins at 9:45 pm, followed by spumante and panettone to toast in the new year. Admission is €20, reservations recommended: visit www.odeonfirenze.com
With school holidays and many visitors in the city, museums, always popular, can provide an interesting and fun-filled family activity. Many of the city’s museums have special hours over the holiday period. On December 30, the Uffizi and Academy Galleries, the Medici Chapels, the Bargello and the San Marco museum, normally closed on Monday, will be accessible to visitors.
Major state-run museums on New Year’s Eve will close at 6 instead of 6:50 pm, the Medici Chapels, the Bargello and San Marco at 1:50 pm and Palazzo Vecchio at 7 pm.
For those who wish to enjoy New Year’s Eve at home, follow the “New Year of the Moon” on Radio Bruno at www.radiobruno.it.
NEW YEAR’S DAY
The festivities continue with a variety of events.
Some Florentines literally ‘make a splash’ to welcome 2020. Members of the Florence Rowing Club, the Societa’ Canottieri Firenze, have a more than a 125-year tradition of initiating the new year with a plunge into the Arno River. The event commences at 11:30 when members of the club parade on the river rowing from Ponte alla Carraia to Ponte alle Grazie. At noon members of the club, joined by the president of the Florence city council dressed in red and white suits, dive into the chilly waters of the Arno. They then make a collective toast to the New Year. A good vantage point for watching this watery event is the Arno overlook between the Uffizi and the Ponte Vecchio.
Beginning at 11:30 am, all are welcome to attend a New Year’s Day concert gat the Teatro del Maggio (piazza Vittorio Gui 1). The Fiesole Music School’s V. Galilei Orchestra and Children’s Orchestra perform a program of Beethoven, Verdi, Strauss and Rota.
This year’s performance will be dedicated to the memory of Piero Farulli, founder of the School and violist of the famed Quartetto Italiano as part of the celebrations for the centenary of his birth. The Orchestra dei Ragazzi and the Galilei Orchestra will be led by Edoardo Rosadini, conductor and violist and a former pupil of Maestro Farulli. Joining the young musicians will be a number of former Fiesole students, now all professional musicians in various local ensembles.
All of the musical selections have been chosen due to their particular relation with Farulli, beginning with his revered Beethoven. From the Sinfonia Pastorale will be performed the first movement, Allegro non troppo, followed an arrangement by William Furtwangler, the celebrated orchestra conductor, of the moving Cavatina from the Quartet n. 130.
Nino Rota, the composer known for his scores for many Fellini films, was a personal friend of Farulli. Extracts from his Divertimento concertante for double-bass and orchestra, will be performed by Alberto Bocini, an internationally acclaimed bass player and professor at the School.
More music by Rota follows with selections from the score of the 1957 film “Le notti di Cabiria.” Next on the program is music by Giuseppe Verdi, the ’Ballabili’ or music for the dance scenes from his monumental opera, Aida. The concert ends with festive music by Johann Strauss I with the Fantasy op. 126, Erinnerung an Ernst der Der Carneval in Venedig, and by Johann Strauss Jr., the Ouverture to his operetta “A Night in Venice.”
Invitations to the concert, subject to availability, will be distributed from Thursday 12 December: Alberti, Box Office, Ceccherini, Checcacci, Data Records or La Fenice Music Shop.
The Orchestra della Toscana opens 2020 with a concert that interpret a program of pieces by Puccini, Rossini, Verdi and Strauss at the Teatro Verdi at 5 pm with soprano Clarissa Costanzo and tenor Gabriele Mangione. Beatrice Venezi from Lucca will take the podium in her first concert as one of the two newly appointed Principal Guest Conductors.
Nearly all museums will be closed on January 1, with the exception of the Boboli Gardens (8:15 am – 4:30 pm); Palazzo Vecchio (2 – 7 pm); Santa Maria Novella (1 – 5:30 pm) and Palazzo Strozzi which hosts an extensive exhibition spotlighting the Russian avant-garde artist Natalia Goncharova (1881-1962), open 10 am – 8 pm, admission €16.
Buon Anno! (rita kungel/additional reporting by anne lokken)