The Top 8 Cultural Celebrations in Italy

Feb 21, 2017 1:30:00 PM / by Julie Ritz

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Words by Mary Brown, an Admissions Advisor at CAPA The Global Education Network.


When you study abroad in Florence, there's a few cultural celebrations throughout the country that are worth looking into attending! Here are eight for your list: 

1. Epiphany and La Befana

Throughout Florence, it is tradition for an old woman to deliver gifts to children on Epiphany Eve. The Befana, like Santa Claus, is said to give sweets for the good and coal for the naughty kids. This holiday, which takes place on January 6th, is celebrated with a wonderful parade of people winding through Florence to the Piazza Duomo in Renaissance costumes to honor the arrival of the three Wise Men.

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2. Carnevale 

Traditionally, this is celebrated with Renaissance musicians, horses, dancers, and bands all coming together each year between February and March. There is a grand parade that travels throughout Florence with highlights such as the beautiful costumes, floats and a puppet dragon. This celebration may be better known in Venice, but Florence has its own party and all are welcomed to dress in their Renaissance best!

3. Florentine New Year 

This March 25th holiday was the official marking of Europe’s New Year on the Feast Day of the Annunciation until 1582. The “Capodanno Fiorentino” or Florence New Year, was reinstated in 2000 as a traditional event with a procession from the Palagio di Parte Guelfa to the Basicilica of Santissima Annunziata. There you can find lots of festivities including live music, exhibits, and a mass to celebrate the new year.

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4. Scoppio del Carro

The Scoppio del Carro or “explosion of the cart” is a folk tradition held on Easter Sunday. A massive 30’ antique cart is filled with fireworks outside the Piazza del Duomo. The Cardinal of Florence then lights the end of the wire using historical flints and a 20 minute fireworks show proceeds. The cart is decorated with some of the first flowers of Spring and the fireworks display is supposed to guarantee good harvests for the year. The procession of the cart and the fireworks are not to be missed!

5. Patron Saint Feast Day

This June 24th celebration recognizes St. John the Baptist as the patron saint of Florence with many festivities and fireworks. A parade winds throughout the city to the historical football match, Calcio Storico, at Piazza Santa Croce. This Renaissance soccer game commemorates a similar match played by trapped soldiers in 1530 with the four neighborhoods in Florence for teams. Players wear traditional costumes and play for their neighborhood’s honor in a game styled much like soccer and rugby.

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6. Notte Bianca

The “White Night,” which occurs on the evening of April 30th, celebrates Spring with a night where no one sleeps! For this evening, museums and shops stay open late and the streets are alive with festivities such as street performances and live music. The city turns into one giant party for the evening leading into the Italian national holiday on May 1st, May Day.

7. Festa della Rificolana

The “festival of lanterns” occurs on September 7th and celebrates the pilgrimage of farmers and foreigners coming to celebrate the birthday of the Virgin Mary. Today, Florentines carry paper lanterns through the streets to their final celebration point of the basilica of Santissima Annunziata, which is dedicated to Mary’s worship.

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8. Republic Day

This Festa della Repubblica is held on June 2nd as a national holiday. The day celebrates the decision to become a democratic republic after the fall of the Fascist party in 1946. Florentines lay wreaths in Piazza dell’ Unita and there is a procession of people in Renaissance attires with a marching band to follow city representatives and military.

Thanks, Mary!

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Topics: Florence, Italy, Cultural Insights