Italy is still a traditionally Catholic Country and, therefore, Easter (Pasqua) means a lot more than just fluffy bunnies and Easter Egg Hunts. Interesting fact: Easter Monday is affectionately called “Pasquetta” (little Easter) and is also considered a holiday. The Italians usually use this day to spend time with their nearest and dearest, so expect things to be a bit on the quieter side!
The main event of a Florentine Easter is definitely the Scoppio del Carro, or Explosion of the Cart (and yes, you read that right-they blow up a cart with fireworks!). On the morning of Easter Sunday, the Piazza del Duomo becomes packed with Italians, tourists & Florentines who all come out to witness the fantastic fireworks display that happens when the Carro gets ignited. Dating back to the 12th century, the display is complete with a historical parade involving trumpeters, drummers & flag-throwers all decked out in traditional medieval costumes. The Carro is pulled by 4 enormous white oxen with garlands of flowers draped around their horns, starting from Porta al Prato and eventually winding its way to the steps of the Duomo. Once it arrives at the Duomo, a mechanical dove is lit by a priest and flies along a wire stretched from the altar to the cart outside, setting off an explosion of fireworks. Legend has it that if all goes according to plan, then the year’s harvests will be plentiful!
Here is a schedule of the day’s events:
8:00 AM— The Carro di Fuoco leaves the Piazzale della Porta al Prato, heading down Via il Prato, Borgo Ognissanti, Piazza Goldoni, Via della Vigna Nuova, Via Strozzi, Piazza della Repubblica and Via Roma to finish in Piazza del Duomo.
9:15 AM–A procession of Uffizi flag-throwers will leave the Palagio di Parte Guelfa (tucked just behind the Piazza di Mercato Nuovo) and head down Via Pellicceria, ending up in Piazza della Repubblica where they’ll put on an exhibition of flag-throwing and music. They will then join up with the processional coming down fron Porta al Prato.
10:00 AM–Arrival of the procession bringing the Carro di Fuoco in front of the Duomo. Once the Carro has arrived, there will then be a lottery drawing to determine the groups for the famous Calcio Storico football tournament this summer.
11:00 AM— The show begins, lasting about 20 minutes.
In addition, there will be a special Easter mass being held at the Duomo on Sunday. At 10:15 am in the Baptistry, there will be the Office of Terce-The Asperges-the Introit Procession. At 11:00 am in the Cathedral, there will be the Celebration of the Eucharist, followed by the traditional Scoppio del Carro & Papal blessing with plenary indulgence. At 6pm on Easter Sunday, there will be evening Mass.
So wherever you are in Florence during Easter weekend, we hope that you get to experience the traditions of the city!
In order to understand why Florence celebrates their own Capodanno, or New Year’s, on the 25th of March, we must go back into history to the year 1582 when the invention of the Gregorian calendar changed the landscape of European history. Although the beginning date of the new year was shifted to the 1st of January by the new Gregorian calendar, Florentines continued to celebrate their “new year” on March 25th, a date which undoubtedly was not chosen at random: it’s exactly 9 months before Christmas.
This date also coincides with the date in which the Catholic Church celebrates the Annunciation of the Archangel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary. What does that mean for the city of Florence? Well, the Basilica di Santissima Annunziata will be at the center of the day’s festivities, with particular attention on the fresco inside the church that represents the Annunciation.
According to legends, the artist commissioned to paint the fresco could not paint the face of the Virgin. An angel then went to help him and completed the painting of Mary, therefore it is the painting itself that gives the church its name and which is still preserved inside.
During the Florentine Capodanno (New Year), a historical parade will wind through the streets of the city center, starting at the Palagio di Parte Guelphi through Piazza Repubblica, the Duomo & finally on to Piazza SS. Annunziata to give white lilies as homage to the miraculous portrait of the Virgin Mary.
Despite a decree from the Grand Duke Francis III of Lorraine issued in 1749 that officially changed the start of the New Year for Florentine’s to January 1st, the city continues to celebrate this traditional day 250 years later.
You can catch all the excitement at 3:30 pm starting from just behind Piazza Repubblica. The historical parade will wind through the main squares of Florence, finishing at the Basilica di Santissima Annunziata at 4:15pm for the homage of the lilies.