And what better time to embark on that kind of thing but Easter, a time of new beginnings, certainly a time of surprise. In England I have always found Easter celebrations to be pleasant, if a little bland. For me I've been waiting to experience something that really captures the occasion, that celebrates in a way that is as outlandish as the Easter story itself. Something extravagant and colourful and brand new.
Florence did not disappoint. The day began with a parade of about a hundred people all dressed in national costume in every colour of the rainbow, some waving the Florentine flag, others throwing flowers into the crowd, one of the Priests up front with a cross. Everyone was beaming. The bells rang out over the city as four white bulls were led the crowd each wearing a head dress of flowers pulling behind them a dark red 17th century cart over nine metres high.
The service, played out to us in the crowds, was in a language I didn't know (Italian, Latin?!) but I recognized some parts through the responses of the congregation as the same parts we have in our services at home. There was something beautifully familiar about it, something joyful about people in another language, a whole other world really, speaking the same words I do week in week out. Pressed up together in the crowd I grinned at the people around me who spoke to me in Italian to which I nodded and laughed, completely non the wiser but not too worried about it really.
Finally, the service over, we heard the wizz of the (wooden!) dove running down a wire that ran the length of the cathedral out to the cart. All of a sudden the cart was alight, firing off fireworks into the sky. It was like nothing I had seen before. Not like English fireworks that are all colour and spectacle, but just banging and bright light and sparklers flying everywhere. It fitted the moment somehow, it was loud, in your face. There was nothing to do but laugh and clap and whistle.
So Italy, well, it didn't let me down. It fed me very well indeed, it blew my cobwebs away by its sheer exuberance and it made my Easter great. Now its back to the books but with a little something extra in my tank.
Happy Easter to you and yours! x