Bonfires in Pontremoli, an ancient ritual of Lunigiana

The Falò di San Niccolò and the Falò di San Geminiano

Every year in January Pontremoli – a small town in the Lunigiana area of Tuscany – celebrates an old medieval rivalry with two big events connected to bonfires: the Falò di San Niccolò and the Falò di San Geminiano (falò in Italian means bonfire). The protagonists of the bonfires are the parishes of San Niccolò and San Geminiano, competing to build the biggest and best bonfire. Every year thousand of people come to the riverbed of Pontremoli on January 17 for the bonfire of San Niccolò and on January 31st for the one of San Geminiano.

The bonfires of Pontremoli - San Geminiano [Photo Credits: Francesco de Januariis]
The bonfires of Pontremoli - San Geminiano [Photo Credits: Francesco de Januariis]

The fires of Pontremoli have ancient origins. The festivities of the "god of fire" were celebrated at the beginning of the year in order to invoke its vital presence against the cold winter months. Since the pagan cult ended, bonfires were linked to the celebrations of the patrons of the Catholic religion. In some places the bonfires have become the symbol of the rivalry between two towns. The bonfires of Pontremoli recall the echoes of medieval conflicts between Guelphs and Ghibellines. Hardworking men prepare for the occasion huge piles of wood and dry bushes, piled in a strategic way so that the fire and the flames can be 30 metres tall. Tradition has it that the tallest fire wins the challenge. The parish that wins will have a fertile incoming year. 

The bonfires of Pontremoli - San Geminiano [Photo Credits: Francesco de Januariis]

The bonfires of Pontremoli - San Geminiano [Photo Credits: Francesco de Januariis]

 

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