Urban Guerrillas with Firecrackers & Too Much Bubbly, or A Shocking New Year’s Eve in Milan


Last night we decided to do something novel for us: head down to the Duomo where rumor had it Elio e le Storie Tese, an Italian rock group, was playing in the square, regaling the Milanese with their music. Ever since I was nearly trampled to death at the Palio in Siena, I try to avoid going where the crush is apt to be crushing. But last night I let my husband talk me into checking out the city’s mood.


Down at the Duomo, not only did the crowd crush, but it sprayed champagne, set off rockets, lit bonfires and trashed the thousand-year-old cathedral turning it into an ashtray and stash for empties. Lots of people got their kicks out of lighting firecrackers and throwing them under other people’s feet. I imagined someone’s toes blown off and the crowd stampeding.



The police stood by watching but not interfering. They were outnumbered by the thousands. I blame the recession, increasing taxes and austerity for the mass outbreak of hysteria.

We snapped a few pictures and then headed home.

Today, the day after, as I sit here writing this, I can hear people outside still setting off firecrackers. More than good natured fun, it feels like protest.

Milan wasn’t the only city in Italy where church grounds were the scene of tasteless revelry. In Florence a young man was photographed urinating on the cathedral steps. 

8 thoughts on “Urban Guerrillas with Firecrackers & Too Much Bubbly, or A Shocking New Year’s Eve in Milan

  1. It is not ‘the protest’ !! Italians have always done it that way, I remember it in the 50s, my parents not going out for fear of what you witnessed. And always a number of people rushed to the emergency rooms. As it happened last night again in Naples and Rome where they are even more hot-headed that the cool Northeners… . It is not the protest, it is the exuberance of life.

    1. Thanks for your insights, Vera. It feels hysterical and mean, though and not exuberant, good-natured fun. People throwing firecrackers at others (one girl’s face was burned–with damage to her eyes–in Florence, for example), is vicious it seems to me. The mood has changed, Italy is reeling with all the taxes and bad economy and it’s playing out in the streets.
      For example, check out this photo essay in La Nazione (Florence’s newspaper):

      As La Nazione says, it’s “degrado” or decay coupled with binge drinking (a new pastime imported from abroad) and frustration at rampant unemployment (among the young the rate is estimated at over 40%).

      1. Oops! Lost track of this one, I guess. 😉

        But since my birthday is newly past, I will take your good wishes for my upcoming year, and wish you all good things, too, Natalia!

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