FLORENCE’S MAIN FESTIVALS AND HAPPENINGS
Scoppio del carro (Explosion of the Cart)- Easter Sunday- Piazza del Duomo
It is the first major folk festival of the year. Its origins lie with Pazzino de’ Pazzi, leader of the Florentine contingent on the First Crusade. His descendants continued to manage the festival until the Pazzi conspiracy of 1478, which of course lost them the office. Since then, the city authorities have taken care of business.
A cartload of fireworks is hauled by six white oxen from Porta a Prato to the Duomo. Here, the whole lot is set off by a “dove” that whizzes down a wire from the high altar.
Festa del Grillo (Festival of the Cricket) -Ascension Sunday- Cascine Park
This festival is a typical Florentine tradition deriving from pagan festivities.
Still today, in amongst the stalls and the picnickers you will find people selling wooden cages containing crickets, which are then released onto the grass – a ritual that harks back to the days when men placed a cricket on the door of their lovers to serenade them.
Calcio storico (Costume Football Game) -Piazza Santa Croce- Final: 24th June
It probably dates back to the “Arpasto”, played by legionaries of the Roman “Florentia”, because it reminds in its arrangements and movements, the battle-order of the Roman army.
Young people of noble families and special physical strength were bound to dedicate themselves to this rude play, in order to show, during the play, not only the sumptuousness of the uniform but also their own strength, and combativeness, rising always the admiration of the attending gentle ladies.
Still today, each of the four historic quarters fields a team. Prize for the winning is a calf, which gets roasted in a street party after the tournament and shared among the four teams and the inhabitants of the winning quarter.
Festa di San Giovanni (Saint John’s Day) – 24th June
John the Baptist is Florence’s patron. The city always bestowed great honours upon him.
Still today, in the morning of 24th June a short ceremonial procession leaves from Palazzo Vecchio in order to offer large candles to Florence’s patron. During the night there is a massive fireworks display up on Piazzale Michelangelo.
La Rificolona (Festival of the Lanterns) – 7th September – Eve of the Virgin’s birthday
Some authors think that festival of “rificolona” is connected with the arrival in Florence of people from the near country, but from far and inaccessible Casentino and Pistoia mountains as well. They were induced to the religious pilgrimage by their wish to celebrate the Virgin’s nativity in the basilica of Santissima Annunziata, but also by the fair of 7th and 8th September, where they had the chance to sell their products and goods.
They had torches and lanterns of different shapes: by them, they illuminated mountain and country roads and, once in the city, its dark streets as well. Florentines began to create the first “rificolone”, inspired by mountaineers lanterns. They were carried all over the city hanging from a long cane. After a short while “rificolone” changed their shape and people began to hang them on their windows. Nowadays they are carried all over Florence by children.