“Earlier this year Black Tomato were approached by a foreign correspondent who refused to give us his real name, refused to meet us in public, but demanded an exclusive contract to write for us by claiming to have the keys to what he claimed were the 12 “HUSH-HUSH” events of the ultimate global traveller” …
… an experience, a place, a memory … way, way, way BEYOND THE BUCKET LIST
We believed him …
And this is he where he took us.
“Where Popes Go To Punch Each Other”
…. “ON THE ROAD WITH ROTHSCHILD” …
ARISTOTLE was once quoted as saying, there are only TWO stories in life…
Man leaves Home.
Man comes Home.
But now that we live in a world where women have a voice, a voice, a vote, equal rights, and lawyers who will quite rightfully take their case when they have been denied any or all of the above three, we really have FOUR… Stories that is.
Man leaves home.
Man comes home.
Woman leaves home.
Woman comes home.
Today, we’re doing #’s 1 & 3.
Taxi-ing to the dark side.
But before we head to the departure lounge. I wanna make a few things clear about how we’re gonna operate and what to expect from travelling with me.
FIRST — and let me say bang up-front…there’s not gonna be any TOP TEN lists–no BLOGS of where to eat, where to sleep, what mountains to TWEET from, and certainly no sun-soaked beaches to take SELFIES at.
None of those.
Not even this one.
SECOND — let’s talk about QUOTES, and the use thereof–and let me be utterly, utterly clear.
This is not going to be one of those articles where I pretend to be wise, smart, and smug by quoting famous people as if they’re personal friends of mine–people whose work I have, much like yourself I would imagine, neither fully read nor partially comprehended.
So that means none of the following. None of the Usual Suspects.
And everyone’s favorite, who’s name none of us can spell… not even him.
Nietzsche… Friedrich to his closest buddies, not that he had many of them, considering the mood he was in for the 55 years he spent on the planet… moaning.
THIRD — And I’m not gonna lie to you here.
We may not have an especially good time together, because we’re gonna be in a RELATIONSHIP, and you know how well they work out.
I don’t mean “relationship” like the one you had with Mummy or Daddy, or even the one you wished you’d had.
I mean we’re gonna be travelling companions.
We’re gonna get LOST TOGETHER, ‘cos I have no idea how to get us home using the North Star, I’m lousy with maps and I only ever use a compass to throw at the waiter to get his attention and some more bread and Pellegrino.
We’re also gonna say WOW a lot, like some sophomore American cheerleader ‘cos we’re going to Florence after all–(Firenze in Italian)— and we’re gonna see a lot of Jesuses hanging from the cross looking very unhappy and very thirsty… ‘cos who paints an unhappy, thirsty Jesus better than an Italian Artist who’s been commissioned by the Pope and threatened with his life if he screws it up.
We may also possibly do a little DRINKING.
… Well you might not, but I probably will, because where we’re going–Tuscany–there are some delicious “reds”–with names like Barolo, Brunello, Chianti, and… RED, all of which may possibly end up on my hotel floor when you … I mean I… have had one too many.
And that can often happen when one’s on a vacation of a lifetime… certainly on a vacation with me.
Don’t feel shame.
Embrace your dark side. None of us live forever, so why not now.
OK … enuff of this sweet-talk intro … what is this gonna be about exactly?–This article–This trip
This excursion into the Hush-Hush land reserved for the precious few. And of which there are 12.
Well it’s gonna be 50% about CALCIO STORICO… a 15th Century bloodbath of a game–1/3 Rugby–1/3 UFC bout, and–1/3 Coliseum Gladiator Massacre, where two teams of 27 players a side, kick the living-life out each other for 50 minutes, with no rules, no oranges at half-time, and certainly no substitutions.
But the other 50% is gonna be about Me & You.
— You & Me.
Getting to know each other.
Sharing a moment in time.
Becoming travelling companions… maybe even life-long friends–learning to trust each other… having juvenile gap year fun together to be sure… but also indulging in late-night conversations about God and the Universe, and wondering whether the best part of our lives is behind us or in front of us, and having the courage, the resources or maybe just enough and the right amount of prescription medication to go find out.
So come on, hold my hand…
… It’s not gonna be that-ttt scary.
Actually… I lie one more time.
It’s gonna be really, really, really scary… and we’re still only at LAX.
Pronounced CAL-CHO STORY-KO–and as it states on WIKIPEDIA–the everyman’s now go-to-resource for just about everything from where to buy Eskimo Condoms to the History of Space Travel–an early precursor of American football, started in 1490, played by Popes Clement VII & Urban VIII amongst others, and referred to by Henry III of France as …
… “too small to be a real war, but too cruel to be a game”…
— and played on a sandy 90×50 yard sandy “beach” in front of the green and white Santa Croce Church, where lay Machiavelli, Galileo, and Michelangelo…
… but not for today. ‘Cos not even they want to miss it.
But where it’s wrong and what it doesn’t tell you–WIKIPEDIA that is–is that despite the non-infringement-generating head-butting, punching, elbowing, choking and straight up kicking to the goolies… nothing prepares you for the emotional hit, the physical body rush, you get, not just during the game but watching the procession before the kick-off.
Kick-Off being the operative words.
Almost as long (temporally speaking)–if not longer than the game itself–the Historic Procession of the Republic of Florence is about 259 perfectly-groomed stubble-faced Florentines, straight off the front cover of L’Uomo Vogue and kitted out in red, green, white, blue, yellow and purple tunics, helmets, hats, pantaloons, carrying everything from trumpets, to cannon balls to fireworks, to flags.
Let me spell it out even more clearly so you can picture the madness of what we’re about to witness…
… Who turns up and Why.
A BANNER OF FLORENCE – naturally
THE MAESTRO DI CAMPO – the Commanding Officer of the Regiment. Always need one of those.
THE SCORTA DEL MAESTRO DI CAMPO – the Head of the Signoria family. One can never leave home without one or two of them.
THE BANDIERAIO DELL’ARALDO – who carries the emblem of the Heraldry.
THE CAPITANO DI GUARDIA DEL CONTADO E DEL DISTRETTO – who’s the Commander of the People’s Militia, whatever the hell that is.
THE BANDIERAIO DI FIRENZE – who has the role of carrying the banner bearing of Florence itself.
THE PAGGETTO – A young page-boy–(always one or a hundred of them in a twisted Pasolini movie)–who carries something gold colored and of massive historic value.
THE GRUPPO DEI BANDIERAI
THE GIUDICE COMMISSARIO
THE TRE ARBITRI – aka the Referees
THE GIUDICI DI CAMPO – aka the Linesmen
THE GRUPPO DEI MUSICI
THE UFFICIALI DELLE FANTERIE
THE COMANDANTE DELLA COMPAGNIA DEL VAIO
THE FANTI DI PALAZZO
A pile of other peeps…
… and finally.
Straight-outta the local pizzeria / penitentiary the “Ripped to the Max & Fight Club ready” …
— PLUS the all important prize for the winning team.
A white CHIANINA COW — a fully breathing, fully living cow … but not for much longer after the final whistle is blown.
…. And as I say … THIS IS ALL before the ball is even thrown into the air signaling the opportunity for the 54 players to begin legally committing grievous bodily harm to each other without being shipped back to jail for an even longer stint.
And with that —
— THE GAME ITSELF …
Let me put this in context.
Wimbledon began in — 1877.
The World Series –1903.
Cricket — the 16th Century.
CALCIO … 200 years earlier.
But, no one’s dressed in white.
No one serves lemonade.
No one wears shin-pads.
No one wears any pads.
MINUTE 1 – STRETCHER ONE
The red & white game-ball is thrown high into the Air.
Thirty forwards–the Innanzi o Corridori–attack each other on the half-way line.
Stretcher comes on. Doctors turn-up. Player goes off … Not a yellow-card in sight.
MINUTE 5 – ANOTHER STRETCHER
MINUTE 10 – GOOOOOOAAAAAAAL !!!!!
One of the VERDE (green team) fullbacks–the Datori innanzi–runs it 50 yards down the field, knees one of the four ROSSO (red team) goalkeepers–the Datori indietro in the ribs — and throws the ball into -a 50 x 1 yard high “net” at the end of the pitch.
MINUTE 16 – ANOTHER GOOOAAAAAAAL !!!!!
I go get a cold “MORETTI” and start chatting up two gyrating Venetian girls dressed in all green.
I go get another cold “MORETTI” and start chatting up two more Venetian girls dressed in all red.
Gyrating Venetian Girls.
VERDE gets one back.
Another stretcher. Lots of cheering.
A gash to the head.
Another hefty medical bill.
CANON-BALL GOING OFF…
ITALIANS HUGGING EACH OTHER ON THE PITCH
ME HUGGING THE FOUR GYRATING GIRLS ON THE TERRACES
EVERYONE GOES HOME
Or rather — EVERYONE GOES OFF TO THE BAR,
… THE END
Now let me be totally honest with you here…
You gotta be there to believe it.
You gotta see the sweat.
You gotta smell the smoke.
You gotta drink the Morettis.
… I can’t do that for you, nor do I wish to …
Because this is not a bucket list moment.
This is not a bucket list event.
This is the whole goddam friggin’bucket.
THE BAD NEWS
… It’s over for today.
THE GOOD NEWS
… There’s another semi-final to go tomorrow — WHITES vs BLUES
— and the FINAL in 2 weeks time.
Winner gets the Cow.
Check out the pictures… plan ahead…
And even though we’re not doing lists, as I stated earlier, and you 100% agreed to…
Here are —
10 THINGS I KNOW ABOUT ITALY
1/ It’s shaped like a boot.
2/ It fought with Germany in World War 2.
3/ It no longer does.
4/ It has the prettiest girls in Europe.
5/ It has the prettiest boys in Europe.
6/ It makes the best pasta.
7/ It makes the best gelato.
8/ It makes the best pizza.
9/ It has the best Churches.
10/ … And one never want to leave her once I’ve arrived.
10 THINGS I KNOW ABOUT BLACK TOMATO
1/ They’re fearless. They’re fierce,
3/ They’re your best friend home-way-from-home.
3/ They never fought with Germany in World War 2.
4/ They never will.
5/ They trust me
6/ I trust them.
7/ They are English
8/ They are cool.
9/ You can really rely on them not to get lost.
7/ You can really rely on them to give you the best vacation you’ve ever had.
10 THINGS I “NOW“ KNOW ABOUT YOU
1/ You’re intrepid.
2/ You thrive on adventure.
3/ You love a little madness on your vacation…
4/ But you love things to run reeee-eeeeal smooth.
5/ You love eating.
6/ You love great wine.
7/ You love making love as the sun goes down.
8/ You love making love as the sun comes up.
9/ You want legendary stories to tell your friends & family for days on end.
10/ You CALCIO STORICO is that story.
Sadly — it’s that time … the time for us to say Goodbye.
What’s that — ?
You’re whispering in my ear. Why you doing that?
You wanna do what? — You wanna go where ?
How did you hear about TOMATINA ? … Who told you about THE PALIO in August.
IVREA — The Battle of the Oranges … Ooooh – !!! … I don’t know if you’re ready for that my friend.
That’s 584,000 lbs of fruit.
The 10 greatest BEER GARDENS IN BAVARIA, you say… Oh now you’re talking… Now you’re talking my language.
Okay, let’s go. Let’s do it.
Once more into the ABYSS.
Once more into the dark side.
The dark side of an ever expanding world …
An ever expanding BLACK TOMATO WORLD.
… See you NEXT MONTH.
Photos by : Ilaria Vangi.