Scoppio del Carro
The first major festival of the year is Easter Sunday’s Scoppio del Carro (Explosion of the Cart), when a cartload of fireworks is hauled by six white oxen from the Porta a Prato to the Duomo; there, during midday Mass, the pile is ignited by a “dove” that whizzes down a wire from the high altar.
Festa del Grillo
On the first Sunday after Ascension Day (forty days after Easter), the “Festival of the Cricket” is held in the Cascine park. In among the market stalls and the picnickers you’ll find people selling tiny mechanical crickets – live crickets were sold until recently, a vestige of a ritual that may hark back to the days when farmers had to scour their land for locusts.
Maggio Musicale Fiorentino
The highlight of Florence’s cultural calendar and one of Europe’s leading festivals of opera and classical music, a rich mix of opera and concert; confusingly, it isn’t restricted to May (Maggio), but often starts in late April and runs into June. Information and tickets can be obtained from the Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino. w maggiofiorentino.com.
St John’s Day and the Calcio Storico
The saint’s day of John the Baptist, Florence’s patron, is June 24 – the occasion for a massive fireworks display on Piazzale Michelangelo, and for the final of the Calcio Storico on Piazza Santa Croce. Played in sixteenth-century costume to commemorate a game played at Santa Croce during the siege of 1530, this uniquely Florentine mayhem is a three-match series, with two games in early June preceding the bedlam of June 24.
Festa delle Rificolone
The “Festival of the Lanterns” takes place on the Virgin’s birthday, September 7, with a procession of children to Piazza Santissima Annunziata, where a small fair is held. Each child carries a coloured paper lantern with a candle inside it – a throwback to the days when people from the surrounding countryside would troop by lantern light into the city for the Feast of the Virgin. The procession is followed by a parade of floats and street parties.