Florence, Italy: An Easter Surprise

When we planned our trip to Italy, we scheduled it around our spring break and it just so happened that Easter Sunday fell during our time in Florence.  Having not even thought about celebrating the holiday while on vacation, I had not done any research about what goes on during Easter in Florence.  Thankfully, we were given a heads-up by some locals that there is a special ceremony called the “Scoppio del Carro” (translated: Explosion of the Cart) in the Piazza del Duomo.  Always ready for a new adventure, we were in!

Thankfully we were advised to get there well in advance.  It is supposed to officially start around 11:00am and we arrived an hour or two ahead of time.   You can see in the pictures below that there was a good crowd gathered, but our early arrival had secured us a pretty decent spot near the front of the viewing area.  Yay!

Quite the crowd was gathered to watch this impressive ceremony!

During the wait, we got to do some people watching–always fun!–and snap some pictures of the beautiful architecture around us.

Then the cart rolled in with its entourage of people.  There were trumpeters, flag-bearers, and folks dressed in traditional costumes.  There were also city and church officials, and of course, like for any big event, plenty of law enforcement.  We really enjoyed seeing the beginning stages of the spectacle!

Did I mention that the cart is pulled by oxen?  And not sad, frumpy, old oxen, but fancy white oxen decked out in garlands and bows!!  Would it be ridiculous to say that these guys were my favorite part of the day???  😛

The cart is pulled in by white oxen.
Look at their tails!!!

Now before I go any further with pictures of the ceremony, I should probably give a brief explanation of Florence’s great Easter tradition.  I hope I get it right since I have only seen The Scoppio del Carro once and am using some online resources to jog my memory.  Anyway, here it goes: The story goes back to the First Crusade when a Florentine man was rewarded for his duty to the church with 3 flints from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.  Each year these flints were used to spark “new fire” that was lit on Easter morning.  I believe the new fire is a symbol of new life.  An oxen-pulled cart would then bring the fire to the homes of the people.  After some time, fireworks were added to the equation and there is a traditional belief that there will be a good harvest if the fireworks all go off and the ritual is successful.  I think that is the gist of it.

Now onto some more pictures from this awesome ceremony…

In the next few pictures, you can see the progression of the fireworks.  It starts small and gets a little crazy.  There is a lot of red smoke!

I love the pinwheel-looking fireworks!

Unfortunately the pictures just don’t capture how truly grand the ceremony was, but still pretty impressive, right?    At one point, with the sheer amount of smoke and flame, it almost seems like the cart was done for!  So I thought I should assure you it was no worse for the wear!  😉

Here is the cart headed out after the ceremony.  All in one piece!

Tips and Lessons Learned:

  1. If you are traveling around the holidays, be sure to do some research about special events that may be happening around your destination.  This can help you plan awesome once-in-a-lifetime experiences.  On the flip side, it can help you find out what areas to avoid if you are just wanting a normal day without all of the hubbub.
  2. Even if you are not traveling on an actual holiday, it is always good to check out local events.  You might find something worthwhile to plan into your itinerary.
  3. If you like to have a good view of the action, get to an event early!  You may find yourself waiting around a while, but getting a prime location is usually worth it!
  4. If you are able to, it is really a very cool opportunity to see how a holiday is celebrated elsewhere.  We’ve been able to do 4th of July in New York City, Easter in Florence, and New Years in Prague, and I hope to add many more in the future!

Next Up:

More of Florence


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