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Sunday, December 27, 2020

New Year's Eve in Italy in the time of Covid - Even in lockdown, some traditions remain

It will be New Year's dinner for 2
in 2020.

RST welcomes guest writer Mary Jane Cryan, who, originally from the US (she even went to college at D’Youville in Buffalo), has lived in Italy for more than 50 years. Mary Jane is THE expert on all things Etruria, the fascinating area just north of Rome that includes the lively city of Viterbo and of Vetralla, where she lives. See her terrific website here: Besides contributing to virtually every important guidebook to Italy and the region, lecturing on cruise ships, and speaking widely, Mary Jane is a prolific writer and publisher. Her own books in the past few years have focused on Etruria; her bibliography is on her website.

We have featured her fine work in two prior posts: one on Etruria, here:

and another on a Borromini monastery (turned luxury hotel) in Rome here:

Mary Jane brings her particular insight to this very unusual “Vigilia di Capodanno” – New Year’s Eve – and New Year's Day.:

2020 will be remembered for decades to come as the year to forget. The latest, rather strict, rules for the holiday weeks here in Italy are being enforced from December 21, 2020 to January 6, 2021.

The table set for a festive crowd in a prior year
and hopefully a year to come.
 This means travel between   individual regions and autonomous provinces is prohibited, except to return to one's primary legal residence. For this entire period, travel to second homes in other regions is prohibited, making Italians even more creative since this is the time when families generally gather together.

There was a rush on trains to get to family homes before the shut down. On 25 and 26 December and New Year’s, January 1st, leaving one's municipality was and is totally prohibited, except for work, health, or other urgent reasons.

Italians are coping with the restrictions by using their creativity: restaurants offer take-away menus which include bottles of spumante with orders. Country house accommodations (agriturismi) and hotels are serving dinner to guests in their own rooms or apartments rather than in the main dining rooms.   

Until this year, New Year’s was celebrated by young people gathering in major piazzas throughout the peninsula, mega concerts were held in Rome, and there was all night dancing in night clubs. I remember fondly one New Year’s evening spent at a concert in Bologna’s magnificent Opera House which ended with a rousing “Radetzky’s March” and bottles of spumante being shared with members of the audience and the orchestra.

What has been - and what could be - a rousing opera at a full opera house.

And a concert in a crowded
Those who stay home play bingo and other board games while waiting for the countdown to the New Year. Multi-course dinners, spumante and panettone are followed with the traditional dish of lentils, for good luck, at midnight. This year the number of guests around the dining table is drastically reduced due to restrictions on travel between towns and regions.

Surely traditions like fireworks, wearing red underwear and throwing old things out for the New Year’s will still happen throughout Italy, and, even though separated by rules and distances, families will be united in spirit and by modern technology to welcome in 2021.


                                                                        Mary Jane Cryan


Sausages by the fireplace - for 2.

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