Every year in June I suffer from intense nostalgia for Pride Week in Toronto. It's one of the largest organized gay pride festivals in the world including a large Dyke March, a Trans March and the Pride Parade. Having evolved out of the mass protests over the 1981 Toronto bathhouse raids, it has grown into a ten day event that infuses millions of dollars into the local economy. I started attending the main parade about twenty years ago, so it's been incredible to see it grow over the years. I miss it SO much.
So it was with incredible excitement and glee that I learned Pride was coming to Florence for the first time ever, last June. Toscana Pride was a week-long series of events that culminated in the Saturday parade on June 18. Pride parades around the world typically take place in late June to commemorate the Stonewall riots.
Unfortunately the one event I attended - a show by Nina's Drag Queens at the 'Pride park' in the Limonaia of Villa Strozzi - was disappointing. The performance itself was great, but it started an hour late, and there was not much to do or see while waiting - just a few stands with books and pamphlets and a little bar serving pizza and beer. There weren't all that many people there, either. I am obsessed with Rupaul's Drag Race and had never been to a drag show so I was really excited to see what it would be like. But the audience was so quiet, it felt like a book reading! My friend who was there with me, a Florida native, said it was nothing like the rowdy shows she's seen back home.
The experience made me dubious about the kind of turnout the parade would actually attract. Boy was I pleasantly surprised. Organizers were expecting 10 thousand people, and some 30 thousand came out! At some very late point, the parade route was changed to pass by Florence's cathedral, which was obviously a huge deal.
And even though the Florence municipality refused to give its official support for the parade, the mayor Dario Nardella decided at the last minute to attend. What a difference from Canada where our prime minister attended the parade with his family. In fact, Andrea warned me not to expect anything like I was used to in Canada; he even worried things could get ugly and refused to let me take the poppet.
Fortunately, he had nothing to worry about. The atmosphere was so joyous and full of love. I and seemingly everyone around me was just beaming from ear to ear the entire time.
This old woman's smile was one of the most moving things about the entire day. I couldn't help but wonder what her story might be.