Festa di San Giovanni in Florence

The Festival of Saint John the Baptist (Festa di San Giovanni) is celebrated every 24th of June in Florence, Italy. It is a major holiday for the Florentines and a great occasion to witness if you are visiting the city. The day is observed in honour of Florence’s patron saint, considered by the city as the symbol of moral and political integrity.

Florence - Italy
City of Florence – Italy – Photo Credit: Jiuguang Wang

According to historical records, celebrations pertaining to Saint John as the city’s patron saint go back to as early as the 14th century. The Baptistery of San Giovanni was then both the religious and political center of Florence. Just as Christians believed Saint John to be the herald of the coming of Christ, the Messiah, he was also considered by the Florentine people a symbol of cultural renaissance back in the medieval times.

The main part of the Festa di San Giovanni tradition is the procession that starts from the Duomo and ends at the entrance of the Baptistery, also called the “door to Paradise”. With this procession, men aged 15 years or older carry burning wax into the Baptistery as an offering to the saint. Some of it is left there, while the rest was sold to raise funds for the church. The wax that is offered usually comes from the Republic’s Magistrate, the Lordships, as well as from both lay and religious groups.

The Festival of Saint John is an all-day, sometimes even all-night affair that colors the whole city in a festive atmosphere. Houses are decorated, food stalls and various shops are set up, boutiques and museums stay open until midnight, and various live musical performances can be seen and heard. You can go watch either the boat races or the exclusively Florentine sport called Calcio Storico (historical football), an amazing combination of football (soccer), wrestling and plain fisticuffs, all done in period costume at the Piazza Santa Croce. You are also likely to see more people in costume beyond Santa Croce?the Festival of Saint John is really the carnival event of Florence. If there is one thing you can expect, it is whole-day entertainment.

Aside from the religious procession and the Calcio Storico match, another highlight of the festival is the grand fireworks display during the evening. This is usually organized by city officials and the San Giovanni Battista Society. The spectacle boasts of hundreds of fireworks shot over Piazza Michelangelo and sometimes lasting for nearly a whole hour. This is quite a sight to see, especially with the fireworks exploding over the Arno River, which creates a reflection of the hundreds of multi-colored flying sparks. The fireworks symbolize the bonfire that used to be lit in celebration of the summer solstice.

After the fireworks, you will see a lot of Florentines enjoying cones of ‘gelato’ as a sort of unofficial tradition that has become part of the holiday in recent years. Because of this, the occasion has earned the more humorous nickname, ‘Festa del gelato’.

More Festivals in Italy

Grand Prix Car

Italian Grand Prix

The Italian Grand Prix, or Gran Premio d’Italia, is the longest running grand prix in Formula 1 Championship racing, and its regular circuit, Autodromo Nazionale ... Read more
Festa della Madonna della Salute

Festa della Madonna della Salute

If you’ve ever wanted to visit Venice in the late autumn, to experience that unique city in a different kind of light and with distinctly ... Read more
Teatro La Fenice - Venice

Venice Jazz Festival

The Venice Jazz Festival might only have been in existence since 2008, but already it is staking its claim as being one of Europe’s foremost ... Read more
Umbria Jazz Festival

Umbria Jazz Festival

The Umbria Jazz Festival, in the atmospheric medieval city of Perugia, is one of the undoubted highlights of the jazz year. Every July, jazz lovers ... Read more
Palio di Siena Festival

Palio di Siena Festival

There cannot be many horse races in the world similar to the Palio di Siena – 90 seconds or so of pure mayhem around a ... Read more
L'Ardia San Constantino

L’Ardia di San Costantino

At the beginning of every July in the small village of Sedilo in northern Sardinia, you’ll discover L’Ardia di San Costantino – the protection of ... Read more

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.