While enjoying a glass of wine on a beautiful summer night in Florence, it quickly became apparent that this particular evening was not quite in the ordinary. Sitting in Piazza della Signoria, the sound of drums and the distant murmur of singing began to creep toward the unsuspecting tourists. Within minutes the source of the commotion became visible.
There was a large crowd of people parading through the street, with each individual equipping a paper lantern atop a long wooden stick. There were small groups of musicians scattered within this crowd, all perfectly synchronized playing the same entrancing song.
Each minute that went by in the piazza, the crowd grew larger and larger until it became impossible to judge the number of people gathering. It was sea of people with lanterns poking up into the air as far as the eye could see.
Each year on the evening of September 8 there is a large celebration in Florence called The Festa della Rificolona, also known as the Festival of Paper Lanterns.
In celebration of the birth of the Virgin Mary, historically pilgrims from the surrounding countryside would journey to the city in order to give their praise.
These pilgrims faced a long journey, often starting in the early morning hours which required them to carry a lantern on a stick to see— hence the origin of the tradition.
Today, masses of people gather to honor this tradition. Starting from Piazza Santa Felicita and making their way to Piazza Santissima Annunziata, the parade ultimately ends with a speech from the Cardinal and a party in the square.
Watch out though— it’s tradition for the children to make spitballs and shoot them at the lanterns, often missing and hitting unsuspecting tourists.
It is encouraged to join in on the parade through the city, and there truly is no better way to immerse yourself in the local culture than by sharing a traditional celebration with them.
Mason Widmer – Intern @ StudentsVille.it (Florence)
University of Minnesota
Strategic Communications | Public Health