Last night I watched the semi-final match of Euro 2012 from a square in Montisi, a tiny medieval hill town in southern Tuscany. The teams: Italy vs. Germany. With more than 200 locals and visitors crowding the piazza and cheering on the Italian team, Montisi served up an unforgettable home-cooked feast flanked by big screen TVs. Food and football go together like air and breathing, and Italians love any excuse for a party, especially when the national calcio (soccer) team is involved.
8:00PM – Aperitivo time. With an 8:30PM start time, people gather in the square for a drink.
8:30 PM – We stand for both national anthems. I promise my Italian friends that if we win this match, I will learn all the lyrics to the Italian anthem by Sunday evening. The first dish emerges – a typical antipasto, three crostini with various toppings.
8:45 PM – The game begins! From the square, the view of the sunset is ridiculous. I snap a quick photo and get my head back in the game.
9:05 PM – Gooooooaaaaaaaaal! Everyone leaps to their feet as Mario Balotelli fires the ball into the net. Wine is poured. Toasts are made all around. Plates of pasta make the rounds. Tonight we’re having penne with a tangy tomato and pancetta (bacon) sauce. It’s delicious.
9:15 PM – Gooooooaaaaaaaaal! The entire square erupts into screams of joy. People jump onto the benches, teetering wildly, waving their arms in the air. Balotelli has done it again. The camera pans to a man in the stadium dressed as Super Mario Brothers’ protagonist. Shouts of “Super Mario!” fill the air.
9:30 PM – Halftime. A basket of roasted potato spears arrives at the table. They’re salty and perfectly cooked. We dig into them with abandon dunking them in aluminum foil cups filled with ketchup and mayo.
9:45 PM – The main course arrives – a culinary tribute to the opposing team – two grilled sausages (one pork, one chicken) and a vinegar-spiked cabbage salad.
10:15 PM – Goal for Germany, the result of a placed penalty kick. In the instant replay, we can see that the penalty-inducing call of “handball” may not have been justified. The time has almost run out, there’s no way Germany will win, so the Italians take the goal graciously.
10:20 PM – Game over, Italy WINS! We’re going to the finals, which means an even bigger feast on Sunday. The entire piazza throws their arms in the air, dancing to Jovanotti’s mid-’90s mega hit “L’Ombelico del Mondo” - translation, “belly button of the world.”
Now, I’ve got 48 hours to memorize the words to THIS. Think I can do it?