Disappointment just doesn’t do justice to the feeling we had in the Tuscan Maremma as we watched Italy get trounced by Spain in the Euro Cup soccer final last night.
In my neck of the woods, the always beautiful Comune di Manciano, we likened the post-game atmosphere to being at a funeral.
We’d spent the last couple of weeks living in a blissfully delusional case of 2006 deja vu (that’s when Italy won the World Cup, in case you were wondering).
Preparing for a game we were sure we would win, we set up a huge projector in Saturnia’s Piazza Vittorio Veneto especially for the final. The Maremmani love soccer and they love socialising, so the piazza was filled long before kickoff.
People squeezed between the ruins of the Roman gravestones, the stone fountain and the statuesque hedges, slotting in wherever there was space. Sitting there watching Italy’s modern warriors, Gli Azzurri, among the ruins of country’s oldest warriors, the Romans, was a picture perfect movie moment.
If you weren’t a local, you probably wouldn’t have realised that it was also quite a remarkable occasion. In normal circumstances, the Saturnini, Saturnia’s locals, don’t get along with their neighbours.
The Saturnini look down on their country mouse cousins and said country mouse cousins insist the Saturnini sold their souls to the devil in exchange for the tourist-drawing hot springs. You need one hell of an amazing event to get these locals to behave.
But as the boys took to the pitch last night, there were no mutterings about devils or backwards country customs… or at least, none that I heard. I’d like to say my neighbours were united in mutual admiration of their boys in blue, but in actual fact, from what I could see, it’s more likely they were united in mutual criticism.
It sounds terrible, but it was actually fascinating to watch. Not being of Mediterranean blood, I was caught up in the insatiable emotions around me. The irrational conviction and enthusiasm the fans had at the beginning of the game. The screams of frustration every time a player came so close and missed. The complete abandon that signaled another round of “Forza Ragazzi” right after they’d almost conceded a goal.
The first time the Spaniards scored, the shouts of encouragement were deafening. After the second goal, the disappointment was palpable. After the third, the complete disillusionment that comes with the death of a dream was hard to bear.
It was all over, so you’d expect that the next emotion on the merry go ‘round of communal sports watching would have been anger.
But actually, when Torres kicked the fourth and last goal, the fans around me weren’t angry. They were too busy berating Prandelli (Italy’s coach) for his poor choices and taking it in turns to shout “somaro” (donkey) every time an Azzurro had possession of the ball.
And yet, at the end of the game, the Maremmani were stoic and, strangely, philosophical. Every person I spoke to admitted that Spain played better and that we were bested. It helped that there were no Spanish fans in the crowd or there may have been some comic-esque pitchfork chasing.
At the end of it all, the locals remained optimistic, telling each other that their team did better than expected. That it was young and had proven it stood a real chance to win the next World Cup.
Still we had a festival to finish. Manciano is half way through another epic Vivamus festival and my hubby, the assessor of tourism and culture, is in charge of it all.
I can tell you he wasn’t too impressed that his evening had taken such a tragic turn. It was my idea to air the game on a giant big screen in the middle of the piazza too… my bad.
Last night was Saturnia’s night to shine. The City of Gold, as it was called during the Etruscan empire, always represents ‘benessere’ or wellness during Vivamus.
Yesterday’s event started with stalls selling natural and organic beauty products and led into with dinners featuring food for the soul. After the Azzurri’s utter defeat though, the crowd was dejected.
A Euro Cup final loss is a hard act to follow, but the “L’ottava sopra” trombone band took up the challenge. They performed a spectacular set straight after the final.
There was some rallying classical Italian music, a bit of Stevie Wonder and even a touch of Michael Jackson. Despite everything, the band was the perfect ending to a night of cultural pursuits and wellness, two things Saturnia has been known for for more than 2,000 years.
They were so good, they even made us forget our heartbreaking defeat… for a little while at least!