So you’ve decided to embrace your inner romantic with a season or two under the Tuscan sun? Contrary to what the movies would have you believe, you don’t have to come of age or have an illicit romance to appreciate the region’s extraordinary culture and countryside.
But if illicit romances are your thing, go for it!
However, we believe it’s semi-compulsory to get to one of the many festivals. They take place throughout the year in and around the rolling Tuscan hills and craggy Tuscan coastline.
Some Tuscan festivals have traditions stretching back as far as the 6th century. And if you don’t think that’s cultural enough, you could always check out some local frescoes or architectural masterpieces after the festivities! Here are our picks of the major Tuscan festivals happening in each season.
Luminara, Regatta of St. Ranieri and Battle of the Bridge – Pisa
This two-day candlelit extravaganza of Luminara celebrates Saint Ranieri, the patron saint of Pisa. The city is best known for its structurally unsound tower, but Luminara beats that for pyrotechnic drama. It kicks off on the evening of June 16, with more than 70,000 candles lighting up the palaces along the Arno river, and a fireworks display. The following day, four boats representing the city’s oldest districts compete in the Regatta of Saint Ranieri along the Arno river. A week later, on the last Saturday of June, Pisa locals parade through the city in their best medieval costumes. Even better, some then join the Battle of the Bridge, a medieval “tug of war” on the central bridge in Pisa.
Display of the Virgin’s Girdle – Prato
Haven’t you always wanted to peek at the Virgin Mary’s Girdle? For most of the year, Prato’s most revered relic is kept under lock and key in the Duomo. But five times a year, with much medieval pomp and ceremony, it’s brought out on the piazza to the delight of the public. Two of these occasions are September 8 (celebration of the nativity of the Virgin Mary) and December 25 and 26. The rest of the time, Prato’s holy girdle is housed in the “Pulpit of the Sacred Girdle” off the facade’s right corner. Read the legend of how Mary’s holy girdle arrived in Prato in the chapel to the left of the entrance in Agnolo Gaddi’s fresco cycle.
Carnavale – Viareggio
Always dreamt of attending a masked ball in Venice? You’re thinking of Viareggio, and in fact these carnival celebrations happen all across Tuscany in the lead-up to Ash Wednesday. Join the masked pageants, fireworks, flower show and parades along the Tuscan Riviera or experience the smaller celebrations in San Gimignano and Florence. It’s your last chance to indulge before Lent!
Easter, Scoppio Del Carro – Florence
If you’re after a big bang, then don’t miss Scoppio del Carro, or “explosion of the cart”. It dates back to 1622 and centres on an elaborate, three-storey high wagon that is rigged to the hilt with fireworks. A fleet of garland-decorated white oxen drag the wagon through Florence to the square between the Baptistery and Cathedral. Then a dove-shaped rocket that apparently represents the Holy Spirit (who knew it was so fiery?) slides down a steel cable at full speed from the Cathedral altar. On impact, there’s a ferocious explosion (the bigger, the better the harvest) followed naturally by a parade in medieval costume.
Come rain, come snow (but hopefully come sunshine), there will always be a festival for you to attend in Italy!