Rome’s most unusual new year’s day ritual: the tuffo from Ponte Cavour

Dec 29, 2021 355

Not many know that, since 1946, Rome celebrates the new year in an unusual way: a dive from Ponte Cavour at midday, just when the cannons from the Gianicolo ring the hour. The first to celebrate the new year in an embrace with the icy waters of the Tiber was Rick de Sonay, a Belgian man of Italian descent, who would rigorously dive wearing a top hat. He was known as “Mister OK,” because he had the habit to make that gesture after emerging from the river, to reassure bystanders he was doing just fine.

On that 1st of January 1946, de Sonay wanted to celebrate his birthday in a special way and thought that jumping in the freezing waters of a river in Winter was just about right: there was no other hidden meaning, he just wanted to have fun. Likely, he hadn’t planned to make of it a yearly habit, but locals absolutely loved it, so he decided to make it a fixture. 

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