09 Sep Rificolona
September 7, a night when Florence shines bright with colorful paper lanterns.
Rificolona. It’s a funny sounding word and if you don’t grow up in Florence or don’t just happen to be in the Tuscan city on September 7, you may never know what it is. Even when you live in Florence for years as an adult, you could end up missing this colorful local festivity.
It all centuries ago, somewhere in the 1600s when farmers from outside of Florence would make the pilgrimage into the city for the Feast of the birth of the Madonna on September 8th. They’d make their way into the city the night before the holiday with lanterns made from paper or canvas hung from the end of sticks. The next day they would sell their wares in a market set up for the holiday.
Centuries later in and around Florence locals celebrate with processions with a show of homemade and artisanal lanterns (and cheaper ones made industrially far far East of Florence) hung at the end of sticks. Colorful and often meticulously painted, the lanterns are destined to last for one night of glory thanks to the tradition of children and teenagers blowing little pieces of clay at the lanterns through straws or cane sticks. Basically the lanterns go out in a blaze and it is a delightful, unique sight for travelers and Florentines alike. In Florence the processions can lead to Piazza Santissima Annunziata, but smaller towns around Florence host their own celebrations, complete with lanterns and processions.
You are transported back to a time of simple games, a sense of community and just plain fun. If you are lucky you will also catch a sight of the more picturesque adaptations of this Florentine tradition, like one that started in the 1950’s lanterns and small lighted floats are set to float on the Arno river.
This year we are even more drawn to this tradition in the city we call home as we prepare for #ThePaperWorkshop. Who knows, maybe we will build something great for next year’s festival.
Rificolona photo thanks to: