Diving Into the New Year

January 9, 2013 / Events
Rome, Italy
Ponte Cavour, Rome
Ponte Cavour, Rome

“Polar bears do it, penguins do it, even crazy Roman residents do it…”

It was 1946 when Rick De Sonay, a former Belgian Olympic diver looking for work as a stuntman, decided that plunging from the Cavour Bridge in Rome at midnight on New Year’s Eve might draw attention to his job search efforts.  After making the leap and emerging from the icy, black depths unharmed, he signaled with his hand the international sign for “I’m OK” and the name stuck. “Mr.OK”, as he was known from that first publicity stunt until his death in 1988 at the age of 89, began a Roman tradition that lives on nearly 67 years later.

The wacky event was eventually moved to New Year’s Day and gets its midday start by a cannon fired at noon from the Gianicolo (Janiculum) hill. Throngs of spectators scramble to find the best spot for viewing these less-than-sane men as they launch themselves off the span and into history.

New Year's Diving into the Tiber

Although most participants jump feet first into the fabled Tevere, only a hand full have performed this feat with a proper headlong dive into the dangerously shallow waters below.  This year, Maurizio Giuseppe Palmulli, who took-over as “Mr.OK” after his inspirational predecessor’s death, will be making his twenty-fifth dive; bartender Marco Fois, is approaching his fifteenth dive.

While Rome isn’t exactly Antarctica, the mercury has been known to drop rather low in January and water temperatures are likely to be a bone-chilling 1C – 5C (34F -41F).

“…Let’s do it, let’s fall into the frigid waters of the Tiber!” Buon Anno!  Happy New Year!

Quirky Roman New Year's Dive Tradition

Photograph of Cavour Bridge courtesy of eyalos, of Palmulli by usumdelphini89, and of diver by lighthousenewsus.

Toni DeBella

by Toni DeBella

A Freelance writer and blogger at Orvieto or Bust, Toni recently packed everything she owns into two suitcases and headed to Orvieto, Italy.  She’s adjusted her tennis game to the clay courts and drinks way too many caffe lattes. 

5 Responses to “Diving Into the New Year”

  1. Angela Finch

    Really interesting note. Thank you.
    I find it amazing how men take such great risks. Maybe women too these days.

    Reply
    • Toni DeBella
      Toni DeBella

      Angela, You know, I wondered myself how many women made the leap…anyone out there know a women who made the leap?Happy 2013! toni

      Reply
  2. OMG! Love it…crazy indeed! Love that the gal is wearing shoes! Thanks for sharing…although I think I’d rather dive into a cappuccino or glass of vino to celebrate!

    Reply
  3. Toni DeBella
    Toni DeBella

    Hi Victoria….that “gal” is actually a “guy”: Sgr. Palmulli…Dive number 25 this year. And I’m with you. The only water I dip into has to be heated to 82 degrees, thank you very much! :) Toni

    Reply

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