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Originally published Friday, December 14, 2012 at 10:00 AM

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Rome rings in the new year by diving in and pitching out

Sometimes Romans embrace the Southern Italian tradition of ushering in the new year by tossing stuff from windows at midnight.

NW Traveler editor

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IN THE HEART of Rome, a diver jackknifes off a bridge. It's an annual New Year's Day tradition that a few hardy souls undertake, immersing themselves in the murky — and polluted — waters of the Tiber River.

Many Romans, though, remain snug in their beds, recovering from New Year's Eve celebrations.

Festive dinners, parties and fireworks are the norm these days for New Year's Eve in Rome. But there are times when Romans embrace the Southern Italian tradition of ushering in the new year by tossing stuff from windows at midnight — a very literal "out with the old, in with the new."

I lived in Rome as a teenager and went happily roaming the narrow, cobblestone streets of the historic center one New Year's Eve. Shouts of "look out below" rang out on one street just before midnight. Residents, clustered at windows flung wide open in a centuries-old stone building, were all gazing and guffawing at a piano that was delicately balanced on a top-floor windowsill, half of it hanging over the street.

Dozens of pedestrians retreated to the far ends of the street to watch. Old dishes, old papers rained down from the windows as people inside the building gleefully chucked out the stuff they no longer wanted. Then at midnight, with another round of merry shouts from the crowd, the piano was pushed out, crashing and splintering on the cobblestones with a cacophonous cascade of notes.

Everyone cheered. Everyone toasted each other. And Rome, the eternal city, launched another year.

Kristin R. Jackson is The Seattle Times NWTraveler editor. Contact her at kjackson@seattletimes.com.

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