Winter is celebrated with several traditional fire festivals. Usually these celebrations have ancient origins. These festivities connected with “Sun God”, were usually celebrated at the beginning of winter in order to invoke its vital presence against the cold months. Since the pagan cult ended, bonfires were linked to the celebrations of the patrons of the Catholic religion. Let's discover some of the most interesting fire festivals in Tuscany throughout the year.
In Abbadia San Salvatore the torchlight ceremony is held every year on December 24 with a traditional liturgy.
At 6pm, the event starts with the “Blessing of the Fire” that marks the beginning of the festival with bonfires, music and food stalls offering sweets and mulled wine.
In Santa Fiora – in the Maremma area, southern Tuscany – the feasts of St. Nicholas and St. Michael is characterized by a ritual fire, the torchlight on December 30th.
The torchlight stops in front of 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.
Every December 16, in Filattiera – a small town in the Lunigiana area, northern Tuscany – lighting up a bonfire is a way to celebrate Sant’Antonio. It is an ancient tradition that once took place on the banks of the river Magra, but nowadays it is celebrated next to the Malaspina Castle.
In some places the bonfires have become the symbol of the rivalry between two villages or between neighborhoods within the same town, such as in Pontremoli, northern Tuscany.
Each year in January Pontremoli – in the Lunigiana area, northern Tuscany – celebrates an old medieval rivalry with two big events connected to bonfires. 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. Read more about the Bonfires of Pontremoli.
Talking about fires, we have to mention the Explosion of the Cart. It is a traditional event held in Florence on Easter day and every year hundreds of people – not Florentines but also tourists – gather around “the cart”, called brindellone.
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, for about 20 minutes!
This scenographic fest is held in Forte dei Marmi in the summertime. It takes place from the Pier of Forte dei Marmi usually from 10 p.m. and everybody can watch the show from the beach (free access).
This is the only event connected to fire that is not traditional!
Pisa probably boasts one of the most impressive Candlelight Festival in Italy. Every year in June the city celebrates its glorious past with tons of events, the major celebrations are held on June 16, 17 and the last Saturday night of the month.
On the night of June 16 the Candlelight Festival (Luminaria) offers a romantic although festive atmosphere. Since 1688, the Luminaria is dedicated to San Ranieri and at sunset literally thousands of candles are lit up.
Read more about the Luminaria of San Ranieri in Pisa.
The Rificolona Festival is one of the most ancient Florentine traditions. Every year, on the evening of September 7th the kids parade from Pizza Santa Croce to the Piazza Santissima Annunziata carrying colourful paper lanterns.
The Candlelight Festival of Santa Croce in Lucca is a religious procession featuring the Holy Face (Volto Santo) paraded along a route entirely lit by candles.
The festival begins on vespers of September 13 and last until the 14th. Needless to say, the celebration is really charming and mystical. Read more in this post: “Settembre Lucchese: tradition, culture and events in Lucca”
Are there any important Fire Festivals in Tuscany we left out? If so, please tell us and we’ll add it!