Surreal music drifted through the air, casting a trance on the crowd as it swelled in the Piazza. Children and adults alike looked up with wonder as huge balloons slowly rose into the sky. Meanwhile, lights flashed through the crowd, bouncing off buildings and shining on the balloons. The crowd grew more excited as a performer was lifted into the air, riding a flying machine attached to a balloon. What was this mystical entertainment? This was the Piazza Santa Croce during the April 30th celebration of Notte Bianca.
The generally busy square of Piazza Santa Croce was even more crowded as thousands of people flocked together for the celebration. This particular show was hosted by Salvatore Ferragamo and featured the talents of Plasticiens Volants, a street theater company. The performance was entitled “Renaissance,” and was described as “Spettacolo di sculture aerostatiche” by the Notte Bianca advertisements. However, this basic description in no way prepared for the true feelings of wonder and enlightenment felt by the people that evening.
The presence of the gigantic balloons within the Renaissance square transformed the space in an unprecedented manner. It was a clash of the old and the contemporary, but was done in a way that highlighted the best attributes of both.
The old palazzi were lit up like they are every evening, but with the addition of several spotlights and constructed scaffolding so that the balloons could give the wonderful show. Before the performance, the balloons were held down on the ground at each end of the piazza. Three, a towering spider creature and two owls, were stationary right in front of Santa Croce’s façade. The other balloons, a bird, owl, dirigible, and several planets were lifted in the air several times throughout the evening. Each one was beautifully and colorfully decorated. The dirigible even had a small DaVinci-like flying machine on its belly with an acrobat sitting inside. The balloons were accompanied by surreal contemplative music that added a sense mysticism to the show.
Piazza Santa Croce has a long history of being a place for city events. When the church was built in the early fourteenth century it was outside of Florence city center walls. However, it soon became an excellent place to host festivals, jousts and football games. Nowadays, the square is a mix of architecture with the Italian Neo-Gothic style façade (done in the 19th century by Niccolo Matas), the Cocchi Serristori, the Baccio d’Agnolo, and several restaurants and shops. Finally, on this most recent Notte Bianca, the square was invaded by about twelve sculptural decorated balloons.
While the Piazza Santa Croce will be used again to host city events, the 2013 Notte Bianca will certainly be a highlight of the piazza’s history.
Watch a Video by Arte a Modino here: Notte Biancan Piazza Santa Croce
Blogger Eileen Donovan is a frequent visitor of Piazza Santa Croce and student of Art History at Providence College. She is currently interning at Santa Croce.
Photo credits: Eileen Donovan. Video: Alessio Bernardi.