More than 100 philanthropists from the United States, including Arizona, and Canada traveled to Italy for the third annual Celebrity Fight Night in Italy. During their five-day excursion through Florence, Lajatico and Venice from Sept. 7 through Sept. 13, they were treated to the arts, entertainment and culture of the region.
Italian designer Stefano Ricci kicked off the festivities in Florence on Sept. 8, taking guests through the Basilica di Santa Croce, also known as the Temple of the Italian Glories, where Italian greats such as Michelangelo and Galileo were laid to rest. After exploring the Cappella dei Pazzi, the evening concluded in the Cloister of the Basilica with dinner and music, led by Andrea Bocelli.
The following afternoon, guests departed Florence for a scenic drive through Tuscany to Lajatico, the birthplace of Andrea Bocelli, where Andrea and Veronica Bocelli welcomed them for an unforgettable evening with guest of honor Nicolas Cage, who received the Andrea Bocelli Humanitarian Award. The evening included aperitifs at the Teatro del Silenzio and a gourmet dinner at the country home of the Bocellis. David Foster, Reba McEntire, Brooks & Dunn, Peter Cetera, Colbie Caillat, Jordan Smith and Bocelli provided musical entertainment. Additional guests included Evander Holyfield and Melissa Peterman, among others.
The next day, everyone boarded a chartered train to Venice for a day of exploration that included lunch at the Palazzo Pisani Moretta and a gondola ride to St. Mark’s Square before returning to Florence.
The pinnacle of the five-day experience was the Sept. 11 gala, where guests walked the red carpet in the historical Salone dei Cinquecento at the Palazzo Vecchio, one of the most impressive town halls in all of Tuscany. Andrea Bocelli, along with Maggio Musicale Fiorentino under the direction of Maestro Zubin Mehta, headlined the evening. Queen Rania Al-Abdullah of Jordan received the Andrea Bocelli Humanitarian Award onstage, and Lonnie Ali was honored for her philanthropic achievements, having been a part of Celebrity Fight Night along with her late husband Muhammad Ali for nearly two decades.
The evening concluded in the heart of Florence, starting at the Palazzo Spini Feroni, home to the global headquarters of Salvatore Ferragamo and the Museo Salvatore Ferragamo. The Ferragamo family welcomed guests with a cocktail and a visit to the museum and shop before they were led to the nearby Palazzo Corsini for a night of dining and dancing.
Celebrity Fight Night has raised $127 million for many charities throughout its 22-year history, most significantly for the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center at Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix. This year’s event raised $4 million benefitting the Andrea Bocelli Foundation and the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center.
As a result of the funds raised by this third edition of Celebrity Fight Night in Italy, the Andrea Bocelli Foundation will assure continual access to education for the 2,550 students of five schools in Haiti to assure a salary for the teaching staff and to grant all of the children necessary health-care treatments.
PHOTOS BY PHIL GUDENSCHWAGER/COURTESY CELEBRITY FIGHT NIGHT