Florence may be known for its elegance. But each June, Florentines revisit their martial past. This is when the ancient sport of calcio storico is contested among the city’s four districts, and the rivalry is intense. Calcio storico harkens back to Roman times, when it was used to keep soldiers fit and battle-ready. Every summer, the square in front of the basilica of Santa Croce is turned into a sand-covered arena. Teams of 27 men try to get the ball over the wooden fence posts at either end, while trying to stop the other team from doing the same. That’s pretty much where the rulebook ends. Fists, feet, and elbows are all fair game. Throwing a sneaky handful of sand is not unheard of, either. Even if you can’t appreciate the carnage on the playing field, you may admire the hundreds of drummers, flag-bearers, and trumpeters who greet each team as they arrive.
"The stars here are incredible,” says expat Linda Ott of the views she and her partner Mike Short enjoy from their self-built home in Santa Fe, Panama. “There’s no light pollution. Orion’s Belt goes right over our house. And during the day, we can see hummingbirds, hawks, and toucans right from our terrace.”
“In March 2003 I came on a relocation-type tour of Panama,” says Penny Barrett of her decision to move to the Panama highland town of Boquete. “It was our last stop and I fell in love with it...compared to Michigan winters, it’s like heaven.” Renowned for its year-round, cool, spring-like weather, Boquete sits in a mountain valley surrounded by verdant jungle. It’s an outdoor-lovers paradise, home to hiking, rafting, and exotic birds and butterflies.
In 1862, a small Mexican militia soundly defeated a much larger French army at the Battle of Puebla. The victory would not end French attempts to control the country, but Puebla’s citizens still remember it with great pride.
With its historic castle and medieval streets, the Portuguese town of Óbidos has a lot to offer visitors. And if you have a sweet tooth, you have another big reason to stop off in this town if you’re rambling through Europe. At this time of year, Óbidos plays host to its annual International Chocolate Festival, which draws attendees from across Portugal and beyond. Amid the many showcases lining Óbidos’s streets, you’re sure to find a chocolate (or two…or 10) to suit your tastes. Professional chocolatiers compete for the Chocolatier of the Year award, while visitors can revel in the many chocolate statues—provided they don’t melt in the Portuguese sun.
If you happen to be hiking through the Himalayan country of Nepal this month, leave your Sunday best behind you. (Attempting Everest in a suit and tie probably wouldn’t end well, anyway.) In Nepal, the full moon on March 23 marks the end of winter and the start of the monsoon season. But local people don’t wait for the rain to get wet.
South America is well known for its strong Catholic heritage, but on February 2, one of the continent’s more obscure religions has its special day. The Umbanda religion, practiced in Brazil and neighboring Uruguay, fuses Catholic traditions with the beliefs of native Africans brought over as slaves in the 1800s. One of those beliefs is in Yemanjá, the Queen of the Sea and patron saint of fishermen. And on February 2, locals of Montevideo gather on the beach at Playa Ramírez to celebrate Yemanjá Day. After sundown the festivities begin in earnest. Worshippers in full-white dresses dance and twirl on the sand to a rapid drumbeat, before offerings of flowers and perfume are put in small boats and set sail.
All around the world, people like to welcome the New Year in style. Take the city of Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas. Every January sees the return of the Junkanoo Parade—one of the oldest street festivals in the Caribbean. With drums and horns blasting through the air, the party atmosphere is palpable.
Feeling burned out by their busy careers, Clive and Janet Brewster made the big decision to leave the working world behind in October 2014. That’s when they embarked on a new life on the Belizean island of Ambergris Caye. Today you’ll ﬁnd them living a life of leisure and luxury on this laidback Caribbean island.
On December 8, 1852, the people of the French city of Lyon lit candles in their windows to celebrate the raising of a statue of the Virgin Mary on the city’s Fourvière Hill. Now, more than 160 years later, this tradition has grown into the annual Festival of Lights, which sees the streets of Lyon lit up by more than 70 artistic light displays from December 5 to December 8. Millions of visitors arrive during the festival to take in these ornate, creative works, as the windows, fountains, and trees of Lyon light up with every color imaginable.