Italian Festivals: Festa della Rificolona

festa_della_rificolanaWho doesn’t love a local festival inspired by dowdy farmers, reenacted for hundreds of years by a procession of lanterns (that end the evening in flames) and children with spitball assault rifles. Answer: no one. Do I have your attention?
Welcome to the (seemingly innocent and wholesome) Festa dell Rificolona! To the uneducated eye, it is a perfectly quaint event involving one contingent of children processing with lit lanterns while another (perhaps slightly more unusual) contingent uses long pipes and putty to shoot spitballs at the passing paper targets. Everyone involved seems perfectly happy with the situation, so you assume it’s all part of the fun. It is. And it is fun, if a bit of an odd way to honor the eve of the birth of the Virgin Mary.
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Photo of the Week: Fiesole Walk

Photo of the Week: Fiesole Walk

Looking for a picturesque and doable walk into the hills around Florence, through some beautiful back roads, and with some award winning views? We’ve got you covered. In fact, thanks to our recent move out of the city center we’ve found the perfect 1-hour walk out of the clogged centro and up into the quiet and charming Tuscan hills. The walk leaves from Piazza delle Cure and takes you through some magical winding roads (with several fun stops on the way) to the main piazza of the gorgeous hilltop town of Fiesole. For those of you who are not interested in an uphill climb (which for the last 20 minutes can get a bit steep), but would still like to enjoy this lovely town, jump on Bus #7 (picks up in Piazza San Marco and drops you in Piazza Mino da Fiesole). For those of you who don’t mind the burn or are looking for an excuse to eat more pasta tonight, read on. Continue reading…

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Art in Florence: Top Twenty Artworks to See Before You Leave

ART_IN_FLORENCEAs adamant fans of the art in Florence, it often breaks our hearts to hear that travelers to this fair city miss out on some of Florence’s renowned works. Of course there are many reasons to visit this multi-faceted town, but one of the main motivations has always been to see Florence’s breathtaking painting, sculpture, and architecture. According to UNESCO (although it may be a somewhat Western centric view), 60% of the world’s most important works of art are located in Italy and approximately half of these are in Florence.
 
Art_of_florenceEveryday we see tourists herded into the Uffizi and Accademia as if they are the only two museums in Florence and countless more make the mistake of thinking that because there is no line outside the many other museums and churches, that there is nothing to see inside. On the contrary, there are many places in Florence that are full of masterpieces and (relatively speaking) empty of tourists. In response to this trend, we’ve made this list of the art in Florence that (we believe) everyone should see before they leave (in truth, the list is WAY longer than this. We had to narrow it down. And then narrow again); some works will be familiar, while others, I guarantee, will be completely new.
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Calcio Storico & Saint John’s After Party in Florence, Italy


One of the fireworks seen over the Ponte Vecchio on June 24th

It has been just over two weeks since Saint John’s little party here in Florence and things have settled down a bit. I almost forgot about all the fireworks and fun until a few days ago when I happened to walk through Piazza Santa Croce and noticed the stadium seating, which was set up for the famous Calcio Storico that takes place on the Saint’s Feast day (see here for more info). The seating, which is a bit of an eye sore to say the least, stays up for quite some time after the game to accommodate post-saint day spectacles such as the Calcio Storico charity match. This game, played between veteran Calcio players (calcianti), is only 5 Euro and will get you a seat and a taste of the official game while also benefitting a charity (this year’s charity was the Tuscan Tumor Association). In the photo below we see the traditional garb worn by the referees (of which there are six on the field at all times). They wear velvet caps and ostrich feathers along with bright and bold Renaissance-style pantaloons to make them easily identifiable if they happen to run into the fray to determine possession of the ball. Continue reading…

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St. John the Baptist = Patron Saint of Florence & One Awesome Guy


St. John the Baptist.
 
What a guy. Am I right?

Sculpture of St. John by Francesco Rustici from the Baptistery in Florence

I don’t think I need to get into it (I mean J to the B was baptizing people, living in the woods, eating berries and bark, and wearing his camel skin cloak way before hipsters were doing it.) Check out his full saintly story here.
 
For our purposes, we are really interested in the relationship between St. John the Baptist and Florence. Saint John is Florence’s patron saint. This essentially means he protects Florence and acts as a middleman between the citizens of Florence and God. Truth be told, he is the patron saint of several other locations, including Turin, Genoa and Malta, and even some groups like the Knights Hospitaller. (Yeah. He’s a pretty popular guy, so have some respect).
 
So why did the Florentines choose him? Continue reading…

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