8 great times to visit Florence in 2015
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From age-old religious festivities to bustling celebrations of modern diversity, we've listed some of the most significant events on the Florentine cultural calendar. If you plan on making a trip to the Tuscan capital in 2015, but aren't sure when, then let us provide some inspiration with these seven annual occasions:
Florence Carnival (Feb 17)
Though Florence's alluring historical essence is permanently manifest in its stunning physical façade this mid-February event is one of the best times to have the whole experience literally come to life. Florence Carnival is a celebration which emphasises the city's rich cultural heritage as well as its contemporary diversity. Traditionally, it was intended to mark the start of Lent, and hence, a short period during which people would refrain from eating meat. Its main event involves a grand parade featuring costumed dancers in Renaissance grab, giant floats, horseback riders and bands. The procession begins in Piazza Ognissanti and proceeds through the historical city centre before coming to an end at Piazza della Signoria. You can see the parade off at its departure point by disembarking at stop 17 (Line A) on the City Sightseeing Florence bus tour.
The Explosion of the Cart 'Scoppio del Carro' (Apr 5)
Head along to the Piazza del Duomo on Easter Sunday and you're likely to witness this vibrant 400-year-old event. A huge cart resembling an ornate tower is wheeled into the iconic public square by a team of white oxen wreathed in floral garlands. This float-like structure comes packed with a hefty stash of fireworks whose lighting is intended to signify a good harvest as well as remember the legendary crusader knight Pazzo de Pazzi.
Florence Music Festival 'Maggio Musicale Fiorentino' (Apr 27-Jun 28)
What better a backdrop for a night of opera, classical concerts or ballet than Florence's Teatro Comunale. This beautiful neo-classical building is located at the western end of the old city close to the banks of the River Arno. Each April the venue opens its doors to some of the world's greatest composers, singers and dancers. Past performances have included the likes of Vittorio Gui, Dimitri Mitropoulos, Bruno Walter and Maria Callas. Tickets range from around 25-100 Euros and around 2000 seats are available for each show.
La Notte Bianca 'White Night' (Apr 30)
The main clue as to what this young and modern festival is all about is in its name. White night is an Italian expression which refers to an inability to fall asleep due to stress, excitement and other such things. Leave out the worry and you've got a fairly accurate description of what it's like to be out and enjoying yourself at the end of April in Florence. Since 2010 Notte Bianca has been keeping doors open and music playing all throughout the city.
Museums remain accessible well after sunset, and in the streets and piazzas entertainers get themselves set up for a night of music, dance and theatrical performance. These free outdoor concerts share the restless city with a tantalising horde of food stalls as well as light shows, open-air film screenings and public talks. Notte Bianca is followed by the May Day national holiday, so the party atmosphere is likely to continue for another 24 hours. Find out more about this year's fifth edition of the festival by following the link in the title.
Festival of the Cricket 'Festa del Grillo' (May 17)
If you find yourself in Florence on the first Sunday after Ascension Day (May 14) then this local gathering in Cascine Park by the River Arno is a quirky event worth checking out. Traditionally, the cricket is meant to symbolise the arrival of Spring, an observance that has led this public space to be occupied each year by an array of stalls selling cricket-related novelties. Also expect live music and a variety of culinary delights.
Fiesole Summer Festival (Jun-Aug)
If the ancient relics of Etruscan and Roman civilisation weren't enough to get you to take a trip up to Fiesole then this 3 month cultural extravaganza is certain to pique your interest. Immerse yourself in a programme of dance, music, poetry and cinema at the open-air Teatro Romano. Arrive at Florence's neighbouring mountain commune by travelling on the City Sightseeing Florence hop-on hop-off bus tour (Lines B or C).
St. John's Day Festival 'Festa di San Giovanni' (Jun 24)
One of the biggest events on the Florentine festive calendar takes place at the end of June. As the patron saint of the city John the Baptist is remembered with a busting costumed parade from Piazza Santa Maria Novella to Piazza Santa Croce. The procession is followed by a football match which takes place in Piazza Santa Croce between teams from four Florence neighbourhoods. Players all have to wear 16th century attire, in-keeping with the light-hearted, historical theme of the entire event. The day concludes with a huge fireworks display along the River Arno, a spectacle which we'd highly recommend viewing from the scenic vantage point of Piazzale Michelangelo. You can reach this lofty landmark by hopping-off at three stops on the City Sightseeing Florence tour (8, Line B; 10, Line A or 19, Line C).
Festival of the Paper Lanterns 'La Festa della Rificolone' (Sept 7)
As a prelude to the Nativity of the Virgin Mary hundreds of Florentines along with pilgrims from all across the world gather in Piazza Santa Croce for a torchlight parade to the Church of the Most Holy Annunciation (Santissima Annunziata). The procession passes through Piazza della Signoria, Piazza del Duomo and Via dei Servi before arriving at the basilica where services to mark St. Mary's birthday take place. Many of those taking part are likely to be seen carrying a small paper lantern illuminated by an internal candle. The celebratory atmosphere of the overall festival is what makes it a brilliant time to plan a trip to Florence. Whether you take part for religious reasons or not, the journey through the old city centre amidst countless flickering flames is guaranteed to be an unforgettable experience.