The annual events in Florence to mark on your calendar
Whether you’re visiting the birthplace of the Renaissance in spring, summer, fall or winter, make sure to check out these annual events in Florence. From fashion shows to historical re-enactments, the city doesn’t have a shortage of interesting celebrations.
La Cavalcata dei Magi
The Epiphany is a public holiday in Italy that takes place on January 6th. This date marks the 12th day since Jesus Christ’s birth and celebrates the arrival of the Three Kings to Bethlehem. The Three Wise Men, also called the Magi, traveled from far and were directed to Bethlehem thanks to the Star of the East. Each king presented baby Jesus with a gift: one brought gold, one frankincense and the other myrrh. On this very day, Florence hosts an annual event that dates back to 1417 called “La Cavalcata dei Magi”, or the Cavalcade of the Three Kings. It takes place in the center of Florence where a parade of hundreds of people wearing stunning costumes re-enact the arrival of the Three Kings to Bethlehm. The procession starts from Piazza Pitti, crosses Piazza della Signoria and ends at Piazza del Duomo where the Kings pay homage to Jesus Christ by bringing their gifts to the live nativity scene. A gospel reading will be held afterwards.
Pitti Immagine Uomo
Next: 21-23 February 2021
While Milan is known as Italy’s fashion capital, Florence is known as Italy’s capital of quality. Firenze has a long tradition in craftsmanship and is considered one of the most active Italian cities in the fashion sector. In fact, high fashion was born in Florence when Giovanni Battista Giorgini organized the First Italian High Fashion Show at Villa Torrigiani on February 12th 1951. The show brought together the greatest Italian designers of the time in the presence of American journalists and international buyers who came from Paris after the high fashion shows. Since then, Pitti Uomo has become the largest trade fair in the world reserved for menswear. For four days every six months, Florence becomes the capital of style thanks to Pitti Uomo. During these four days, fashion shows, events, installations and parties are held in different parts of Florence. If you want to plan ahead, remember that Pitti Uomo is always on the calendar just before the Milan Men’s Fashion Week.
When it comes to Carnevale, chances are you’ve probably heard of the Venice Carnival. But you’d be surprised to hear that the Florence Carnival has very ancient origins. Born as a festival with popular roots, it was the Medici family who consecrated it as an institutional event and then the Lorraine family who made it more “refined” by celebrating it in aristocratic palaces. But what exactly is Carnevale? It’s the period of celebration before Lent, celebrated with dances and masquerades, jokes and good company, and consumption of food and alcohol. So Carnevale is a time for fun events, parades and traditions that manage to unite everyone. The Carnevale di Firenze in particular manages to catapult you into a past full of 18th century costumes. The program is organised by the Comune di Firenze and includes a parade that unwinds throughout the whole city, from Lungarno Vespucci to Piazza Duomo, ending at Piazza della Signoria, where winners of the best costumes are awarded. Among confetti, masked balls, theatrical performances and much more, the Carnival of Florence awaits you to give you days of pure fun.
Florentine New Year
Yes, you read that correctly, there is a Florentine New Year! While other Italian and European cities began using the Gregorian Calendar in 1582, marking the New Year on January 1st, Florence and the whole region of Tuscany began the new year on March 25th. That is until Francis Stephen of Lorraine changed to the Gregorian calendar too in 1750! As you could’ve guessed, the reason for picking March 25th to mark the New Year is linked to a religious celebration: the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. On this day, the Archangel Gabriel revealed to the Virgin Mary that she’d become the mother of Jesus. To kick off the New Year and to celebrate the manifestation of the Archangel Gabriel, the city of Florence would organize a procession to the Basilica of Santissima Annunziata. And while January 1st is the official New Year’s Day, Florence has kept the tradition of the Florentine New Year’s Parade and still celebrates it on March 25th with an afternoon parade with people in historical costumes making their way to the Chapel of the Holy Effigy in the Basilica of Santissima Annunziata.
Lo Scoppio del Carro / The Explosion of the Cart
If you happen to spend the Easter celebrations in Florence, make sure not to miss this traditional celebration. Lo Scoppio del Carro, or the Explosion of the Cart, is an event held every Easter Sunday in Florence in Piazza del Duomo, originating back to the first crusade. The protagonist of the event is an 18th century 9-meter-high cart filled with fireworks, pulled by two oxen adorned with flowers through the streets of Florence. The procession, which involves people in traditional costumes, musicians and flag-wavers, begins at Porta al Prato and ends at the Duomo di Firenze where Easter mass commences. During mass, the Archbishop of Florence lights the firecrackers with a dove-shaped rocket, symbolising the Holy Spirit, which follows a wire that goes from the altar to the cart. When the firecrackers reach the cart, the fireworks catch fire and the show kicks off. As the firework display grabs the attention of the crowds, the church bells of Giotto’s Bell Tower ring. And, if the dove-shaped rocket returns to the altar along the wire, it means a good year is ahead of us!
Maggio Musicale Fiorentino
April – June
From late April to the beginning of June, the famed Maggio Musicale, or May Music Festival, takes place in various venues in Florence in collaboration with the Opera di Firenze. This is the chance for all classical music, ballet and opera lovers to grab tickets to some exciting internationally-renowned performances. The festival was founded in 1933 and was the first of its kind in Italy, not to mention the oldest in Europe, after the Salzburg Festival. Check out the official website to see this year’s program. We recommend purchasing tickets in advance.
Firenze Rocks Festival
While last year’s edition was cancelled due to Covid, we’re hopeful that the 2021 edition of the Firenze Rock Festival will take place and will have an enormous outcome like the one in 2019. Showcasing rock legends since 2017, the Firenze Rocks Festival gives the possibility of purchasing a single ticket for all 4 days of the festival, so yes, rock fans are in for a special treat. Past line-uppers include Tool + Smashing Pumpkins, Ed Sheeran + Snow Patrol + Zara Larsson + Matt Simons, The Cure + Sum 41, Foo Fighters + The Kills, Guns N’ Roses + Volbeat and many more. The 2021 lineup hasn’t been finalized yet, but it seems that The Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Vasco Rossi will perform for sure. That 4-day long ticket looks very tempting right about now!
Feast day of St. John the Baptist
Saint John the Baptist, or San Giovanni Battista, is the patron saint of the city of Florence, Turin and Ragusa, celebrated on June 24th. He became the patron saint of Florence in the 13th century once Florentines converted to Christinanity. Before him, the god protector was the god of war, Mars. If you’re not accustomed to St. John the Baptist, he was a symbol of “moral rectitude and political correctness”, and was beloved for his teachings. His image was even imprinted on the ancient Florentine currency, the florin. From the Middle Ages till today, June 24th has always been synonymous with colorful celebrations in Florence. The celebrations of San Giovanni Battista begin with the procession, continue with historical re-enactments, the offering of the candle, a Holy Mass, the final match of the Calcio Storico Fiorentino, and a rowing competition on the Arno River. At 10pm, a fireworks show paints the sky with spectacular plays of light and shapes.
Calcio Storico Fiorentino
The final match of the Calcio Storico Fiorentino takes place every year on the Feast Day of Saint John the Baptist. Among the many events held in honor of the patron of Florence, Calcio Storico Fiorentino is one of them. Born in the 16th century, the game is a combination of football, rugby and wrestling, played by four teams that represent the four historic neighbourhoods of Florence: Santa Croce (blue), Santo Spirito (white), Santa Maria Novella (red) and San Giovanni (green). Each team wears the historic costumes and color of its neighbourhood. The two semi finals are usually played in a single weekend in the first half of June, while the final always takes place on June 24th at 5pm. A wonderful parade in historical costumes runs through the streets of the center starting from Piazza Santa Maria Novella to arrive in Piazza Santa Croce, where the final match will take place. All four teams are present at the parade, even those who do not have to compete in the final.
June – August
Estate Fiesolana is the most ancient open-air festival in Italy, taking place every summer from June to August. Just a few minutes from the city center of Florence you’ll find the Teatro Romano di Fiesole, which serves as a stage for the Estate Fiesolana. At this Roman amphitheatre, in addition to cinema and theater, you’ll be able to enjoy concerts under the stars, ranging from classical and jazz music to rock. The Festival’s first edition dates back to 1947 but the amphitheatre dates back thousands of years. Stay put for this year’s program!
Festa della Rificolona & The Nativity of the Virgin Mary
The Festa della Rificolona, or Festival of the Paper Lanterns, takes place in Piazza SS. Annunziata on September 7 every year. An event geared at children, who enjoy swinging their multicolored lanterns through the air. The main 11 kilometers long parade leaves from Basilica di Impruneta and ends in Piazza Santissima Annunziata where the traditional blessing of the Rificolona takes place.
The Duomo of Florence, or the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Flower, is dedicated to the Virgin Mary. And on September 8th, we celebrate the feast of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary – on the day in which the first stone of the present Cathedral was laid. To pay tribute to the Virgin Mary, the external balconies around the base of the Cathedral’s dome are open to visitors, from 10am to 4.30pm, free of charge, offering a stunning view of Florence. It’s a wonderful opportunity for locals and tourists alike.
Did you know that Florence has a co-patron saint? Which means Florence also has a second Feast day (I know, it kind of seems like Florence has two New Year’s, two patrons, two of everything!). So who is this co-patron? Santa Reparata was a 3rd century martyr who’s mediation led to the defeat of the Barbarian hordes that wanted to besiege the city of Florence. Her intervention allowed for Florence to maintain its independence. Every 8th of October the city organizes a procession that starts from Piazza di Parte Guelfa and ends at the crypt of the Duomo where she lies. On this occasion, free guided visits to places linked to the memory of the saint are organized.