Winter in Tuscany is characterized by several traditional fire festivals, usually of ancient origin. These festivities were often a symbolic invocation to the "Sun God", to invoke his vital presence against the cold months. Once the pagan cult was over, the lighting of bonfires became mostly connected to the celebrations of the patron saints.
Let's find out some of the most interesting fire festivals in Tuscany throughout the year.
Every January 16, starting at dusk, Sant'Antonio Abate is celebrated in Filattiera with a religious ceremony followed by a procession and the lighting of three bonfires by the three districts of the Municipality, who compete to build the tallest and most beautiful fire. It is an ancient tradition that once took place on the banks of the river Magra.
Every year thousand of people come to the riverbed of Pontremoli on January 17 for the Falò (bonfire) of San Niccolò and on January 31 for the Falò di San Geminiano. These two big events - called Disfida dei Falò - celebrate an old medieval rivalry berween the parishes of San Niccolò and San Geminiano, competing to build the biggest and best bonfire.
Fires, but also explositions! Like the Explosion of the Cart, the traditional event held in Florence on Easter day, with hundreds of people gathering around “the cart” ( the so-called brindellone) in front of the Cathedral. The key moment is when a dove-shaped rocket goes out of the cart in the direction of the altar of the Cathedral and then returns to the cart to set off the fireworks. If the operation is successful it is considered a sign of good luck.
Pisa probably boasts one of the most impressive and romantic Candlelight Festival in Italy: on the night of June 16, thousands of candles illuminate the banks of the river and are hung on wooden frames which are shaped to highlight the contours of palaces, bridges, churches and towers. It's the Luminaria of San Ranieri, a tradition dating back to 1688.
The only event connected to fire that is not traditional, but sure it is scenographic! This festival is held in Forte dei Marmi in the summertime. It takes place from the pier and everybody can watch the show from the beach.
The Rificolona is one of the most ancient Florentine traditions and a beloved one. Every year, on the evening of September 7, a cheery parade of kids carrying colourful paper lanterns makes its way through the streets, to reach Piazza Santissima Annunziata.
The origins of the Rificolona date back approximately to the mid-17th century when, the night before the Virgin Mary’s birthday, countryside farmers would arrive into the city at night, holding multicolored paper lanterns, to sell their products beneath the loggias of that very same piazza.
The Luminaria of Santa Croce is part of the celebrations for the Festa di Santa Croce that occur in Lucca in mid-September, over the course of a few days. This evocative candlelight festival is held through the streets and squares of the historic center, lit up with thousands of lights and candles, while people in medieval costume parade.
This ancient tradition has spanned the centuries and remains unchanged to the present day. It takes place every year on the evening of November 24, or on the eve of the birth of Saint Catherine of Alexandria. On the top of a hill, the locals gather around an oak log called stollo, wrapped in bundles of cloth which are set on fire. With the flare of the flames, a race also begins in which everyone tries to get the stollo and bring it within their own district to win the competition. The event is such a passionate affair for locals that it has its own museum.
In Abbadia San Salvatore the millenary tradition of the torchlight ritual is held every year on December 24, when the entire town moves through the streets to celebrate Christmas.
Giant stacks of wood are piled up in front of the old abbey and in various points around the historic center. The festivities begin around 6pm with the lighting of the bonfire below the porticoes of the municipal offices. A choir winds through the village, stopping at each torch and raising songs to the sky as a blessing. The celebrations wrap up with wine cellars opening after the mass.
In the town of Santa Fiora, that like Abbadia San Salvatore is found on Mount Amiata, the feasts of St. Nicholas and St. Michael is characterized by a ritual fire: the Fiaccolata.
On December 30 a procession of burning torches winds its way from the main square of the town through the narrow streets and alleys to reach Palazzo Sforza, where the distribution of typical sweet polenta, made with chestnut flour, becomes a symbolic meal to guarantee the continuity of the local community.