Easter traditions in Tuscany

In Tuscany, during the Holy Week, the run-up to Easter, there are a lot of special events in many towns and villages which are absolutely worth attending. The ancient traditions usually vary from place to place, historical reenactments, public repentance, religious processions and town festivals are organised just before or after Easter, with many events highlighted on Easter Sunday. 

the Duomo in Florence
the Duomo in Florence
One of the most famous Easter traditions in Tuscany is the Scoppio del Carro, the Explosion of the Cart, in Florence on Easter Sunday. This tradition dates back to the time of the Crusades. 

According to the legend the famous Florentine leader Pazzino dei Pazzi was the first to put the Christian flag on the towers of Jerusalem in 1099. Godfrey of Bouillon rewarded his courage with some stones of the Santo Sepolcro, the Holy Tomb. Pazzino dei Pazzi brought these stones to Florence and the Bishop of Florence used them to light the Holy Fire on Easter Saturday for the christian Florentines. The dei Pazzi family kept this tradition alive with a cart that was set on fire with the sacred stones of Jerusalem. 

the Cart or Brindellone
Today this tradition continues on Easter Sunday. In the morning a procession with flag throwers and musicians in medieval costumes escort the decorated cart (Brindellone), which is pulled by white oxes, from the city gate Porta al Prato, near the main train station, to the city centre in Piazza del Duomo.
the Colombina
A wire is extended from the cart in front of the Cathedral to the altar inside. A mechanical dove with an olive twig called Colombina, which is mounted on the wire, flies from the altar to the cart with a burning fuse to set off the fireworks. At the end of the Easter Mass the Archbishop uses the Holy Fire from the stones to light the fuse which is attached to the dove. The dove 'flies' to the Cart, which is loaded with colourful fireworks, and ignites it. 
the Explosion of the Cart
Legend has it that if the ceremony is completed without problems, the Florentines will have a prosperous year. Amongst others, after the ignition of the fireworks the dove has to fly back to the altar. The last time that this failed was in 1966, when later that year the Arno flooded all of Florence! Needless to say that assisting this unusual, spectacular event is very exciting. If you want to avoid the crowd in front of the Duomo in Florence, there is a similar event on the same day in Figline Valdarno, a town just 35 km southeast of Florence.

Easter cake Colomba
The pigeon or dove is present as a red thread in the Italian Easter traditions. There is a typical dove-shaped almond cake called Colomba and, for instance, the tradition of Easter Eggs is less widespread than in other European countries.

Apartment in Florence at 150m from Piazza Duomo

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