Traditional Catholic families of Florence celebrate Easter like most others - with food, family, and a special mass.
Then somewhere in the middle of all of this, everyone gathers around the Piazza del Duomo to watch a dove shaped-rocket launch into a giant wooden structure, causing a violent explosion.
To no surprise, the event is called the Explosion of the Cart.
Its intentions are clear, to secure good harvest. But its roots, those are a lot harder to explain…
Tradition holds that the cart exploding activity dates back to the semi-legendary adventures of Pazzino de ‘Pazzi, a Florentine warrior and the first man to climb the walls of Jerusalem in July 1099, during the First Crusade. For his bravery, Pazzino’s commander gave him two shards of stone from the Holy Sepulchre, shards that were later used to start an annual “holy fire” to be transported through the city as a religious relic for all to see during Holy Week.
By the middle ages the holy fire had become a holy flame, represented by a large candle that was transported through town in a cart. Somehow by the 18th century, the simple cart had morphed in a 30 foot tall structure.
Today the tradition bears strong resemblance to the way it’s been celebrated for centuries.
Two white oxen accompanied by costumed revelers, pull the cart into Piazza del Duomo, while the holy fire is lit in the Church of SS Apostoli and transported to the Duomo.
Once there an archbishop lights the sacred Colombina rocket, which travels across the plaza via a wire, until setting fire upon the fireworks conveniently attached to the cart…which subsequently "explodes" with colorful ember and smoke.
All of this happens in the middle of Easter Mass.
If the whole thing goes smoothly, not only is a good harvest due, but good luck is expected for the entire city as well.
The Easter Mass is held at the Cathedral Square in the heart of Florence. It’s hard to miss and even if you did, just about anyone you see could point you in the right direction. The procession starts at 10 AM and the explosion takes place at 11 AM sharp!
Other things to do in Florence
As the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance,Florence was politically, economically, and culturally the most important city in Europe for around 250 years. The city is full of culture, which can be witnessed in the beauty of its architecture.
Climb the Duomo
The winding staircases of the Duomo lead to some of the best views of Florence. From there you can see the Tuscan countryside in the distance, the impressive palaces and churches that jumble through the city, and just how big the Duomo really is.
Saunter the Boboli Gardens
Just behind the Pitti palace you’ll find lush green gardens beckoning to be strolled through. There you can find excellent views of the city and numerous classic Italian sculptures. Once there, take a pit stop at the hilltop café where you can grab a drink and a seat outside along with an amazing view.
Uffizi Street Performers
Just outside the Palazzo Vecchio, whenever the sun sets the entertainment rises. In the evenings here, street performers often put on shows ranging from violin duets to people dressed as sculptures.
View from Piazzale Michelangelo
This big square on the hill isn’t hard to spot, but it is however an uncommon tourist site. Climbing the stairs called “Rampe di San Niccolo” the Piazzale is easy to reach. You’ll find the stairs on the side of the Arno river just in front of the national library. Summer nights are the best time to go and enjoy the Florence lights.
Travel tip shared by MapSales