Easter traditions in Tuscany
Easter in Tuscany is a real feast. It coincides with a time of year that is rich in events and ancient traditions that change from town to town. Easter is therefore the perfect opportunity to discover Tuscany on a spring weekend dedicated to food and beauty.
The Scoppio del Carro (explosion of the cart) is a famous and greatly loved tradition dating back to the Renaissance and has since been celebrated in Florence every Easter Sunday morning in Piazza Duomo. The entire city participates in this century-old tradition. Reenactors in period costume, musicians, flag throwers, dames and knights escort the “fire cart” better known as Brindellone which is pulled by two white oxen festooned in spring flowers. The cart crosses the streets of the centre of town, reaches piazza Duomo and is placed between the Baptistery and the Cathedral. The parade is preceded by a banner with the Florentine lily and the flag of the Pazzi family which historically had the privilege to prepare the cart on Good Saturday. The triumphal cart, made of a three-story painted wooden float, is ignited with the “colombina”, a fuse in the shape of a dove holding an olive branch.
The Archbishop of Florence lights the flare inside the cathedral, which then speeds along a wire drawn between a column inside the Duomo and the “Brindellone”, which is laden with fuses and squibs. If the dove, after igniting the cart, manages to go back to the Altare Maggiore, the altar inside the Duomo, a year of good luck is expected for the city and the holy fire is symbolically distributed across Florence bringing hope and a happy Easter.
Another heartfelt tradition is the reenactment of the Passion of Christ in Grassina, just outside Florence, which is staged on Good Friday. This is an imposing theatrical representation of the Way of the Cross through the streets of town with around 500 reenactors in period costume interpreting scenes from the passion of Christ on Mount Calvary and some 100 actors on the crest of a hill. On Good Thursday Comeana di Carmignano stages another historical and religious reenactment of the Passion with a three-hour long procession narrating the last hours of the life of Jesus, from the trial to his crucifixion, accompanied by a music band and a float with a statue of the Madonna. Easter also chimes with old flavours and culinary traditions which are brought back to use in the local fairs and markets.
Easter Monday in Bibbona is celebrated with the Festa del Cedro (cedar tree fair) with a local produce market, while in the evening the Palio delle Botti (the barrel parade) is held, a competition in which the various rioni (neighbourhoods) roll barrels through the narrow streets of this mediaeval town. The Festa della farina dolce (sweet flour fair) is celebrated on Easter Monday at Piteglio in the mountains around Pistoia, where local specialities made with chestnut flour such as castagnaccio and necci – similar to pancakes – are cooked on a slab and filled with ricotta.
Finally, a special fair is held on Easter Monday in Quadalto, a small fraction of the beautiful town of Palazzuolo sul Senio, where the Boiled Egg fair not only displays stands with Easter specialities but you also get a chance to watch a number of games played with boiled eggs.