Easter in Florence is a colorful, flowery and magical time filled with springy storefronts, fancy desserts and carts exploding in front of the Santa Maria del Fiore.
The week leading up to Easter brought flocks of priests, nuns and other religious figures. Stores advertised Easter food and Easter treats. The city came alive with a brilliant energy of Spring.
The city’s most well-known tradition is the Scoppio del Carro, or “The Explosion of the Cart.” For nearly 350 years, the brindellone, the two-story cart topped with fireworks, is paraded from Porta al Prato to the Basilica of Santa Maria del Fiore (The Duomo). After arriving at 10 a.m. a ceremony, complete with song and dance, occurs around the magnificent cart. At 11 a.m., following a choir performance of “Gloria,” the Archbishop launches a dove-shaped rocket, called the colombina, into the cart, setting off a loud and smokey firework display.
The Scoppio del Carro stems from historic and legendary events. Pazzino Pazzi, a young member of Florence’s renowned Pazzi family, took part in the First Crusade in Jerusalem. He was supposedly the first to scale the walls of Jerusalem, displaying great courage.
His commander rewarded his bravery with the gift of three flints from the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. The flints were carried back to Florence and stored at Chiesa degli Santi Apostoli.
The ceremony today still resembles the way it has been celebrated throughout history. The three flints from Jerusalem are used to light the Easter candle. The candle is then used to light coals, which are placed in the cart.
If the whole ceremony progresses successfully, it is considered good luck and signifies good fortune for the year ahead.
Unfortunately, sometimes heavy heat and crowds of people result in medical emergencies.
Several people fainted or fell sick from heat exhaustion. But the ceremony went on as if nothing were wrong. I’m not sure what all of this means for “good luck and good fortune for the year ahead.”
And it ends as it began.
When the ceremony reaches its finale, the same parade that led the cart to its empty stage leads it back to its dressing room on Porta al Prato, where it waits for another year to return to its spotlight.
Easter in Florence was truly a unique and unforgettable experience. From exploding carts, to Colomba di Pasqua (an Italian Easter dessert), to the many festivities that filled the city streets in the days leading up to the holiday, Florence took Easter to a different level than I would have ever imagined.
However, it was not quite enough to ease the aches of spending a holiday away from home.
Sitting on the sandy bank of the Arno river after Scorpio del Carro, I finished a strange book about a seagull that my brother insisted I read. In it, I was reminded of his spirit and his optimism.
“If our friendship depends on things like space and time, then when we finally overcome space and time, we’ve destroyed our own brotherhood! But overcome space, and all we have left is Here. Overcome time, and all we have left is Now. And in the middle of Here and Now, don’t you think that we might see each other once or twice?”
Even when it seems that a whole bunch of forevers separate you from the ones you love and care about, you learn to realize that they’re closer to you than you think.