Four years ago, I was studying art in an Estruscan hillside town in Tuscany.
That summer, I spent a lot of time photographing, painting and writing for my classes. I spent more time traveling. And I spent about the same amount of time watching football — NOT American football — but soccer. World Cup fever was in full swing, and I was there the entire month for the madness.
Every evening, we would hike down the hill to the Lion’s Well pub in Piazza Signorelli to watch whatever game was being aired. And for the first time since the sixth grade, I really got into soccer, thanks to my Italian friends and fellow students.
The night Italy played in the championship four summers ago, my town set up a huge screen in Piazza Signorelli and projected the game onto it so that townspeople, students and people from towns down the hill could come watch and hopefully celebrate Italy’s victory.
We all waited on pins and needles as the game dragged on. Then extra time. And then penalty kicks.
After hours of waiting, Italy pulled it off, and everyone was screaming, hugging, waving their flags and rejoicing. Some people drove into the square in a truck, holding flare guns and painting the buildings an eerie red.
The party continued into the night. We were offered wine from the town’s wine store owner, who happened to be carrying around the largest bottle of vino I have ever seen. We were offered pastries from the Bar Sport, a local bar my roommates and I frequented in the mornings after my painting class. And we were given hugs and kisses, despite the fact we were clearly not Italian.
I remember that night and can’t help but smile. It was one of the most glorious celebrations I have ever attended.
I have reminisced about that night numerous times in the past month as I have watched World Cup games from a variety of locations. (None of these are as exciting as a pub in Italy, though.) And I thought about it so much today as I watched Spain defeat the Netherlands in a game not so different from the Italian-French game four summers ago.
I’m sad my adopted team did not make it out of the first round, but I am so thankful I had the chance to watch more soccer this summer. And you better believe that in four summers, I will be doing the same thing, no matter where I might be.