Setting the World on Fire

It’s finally Friday! Today was awesome! We got our paperwork done for our Permesso di Soggiorno done and turned in. We then had our first Italian test, which I thought was pretty easy, except for a few things. Since we had a test we had some extra time between class and our general meeting. We used this time to make a trip to the San Ambrogio Market. It was really cool. There was everything from clothes to fruit and vegetables to meats, cheeses, and seafood. We picked up lunch from a little trattoria inside that served things that were pre made. After our general meeting we ran some errands and then decided to join some other people on a trip to Ikea again to get some last minute things. We learned how to use the bus system (sort of); it was pretty strange and a little confusing, but our little knowledge of Italian came in handy when asking for directions and how to get to the bus. Ikea was MUCH more manageable during the weekday. I’m never going back on the weekend no matter how free the bus fare might be. It was actually an even cooler place than last time. We even had Swedish meatballs, mashed potatoes with gravy, and a little cranberry sauce. It was so yummy (and only 4 euro with free water)! Ikea is a pretty cool place.

After our journey to Ikea, we came back and quickly got ready for the lantern festival, Rificolona. It was super awesome. There were lots of cute little kids with lanterns and lots of annoying little kids with blow guns shooting clay spit wads at the lanterns trying to catch them on fire. We paraded across the Ponte Vecchio to the Piazza della Signoria to the Piazza del Duomo to the Hospital of the Innocents. At the piazza near the Hospital of the Innocents, there were vendors set up selling mysterious treats that are normal for Italian festivals I suppose.

After the Lantern Festival, we made our way back to the Uffizi for a party held by the Rotoract club on the Uffizi Terrace. The party was held to raise money for a foundation supporting tumor research. It was crazy. The “line” for drinks was packed. I felt like a sardine and had absolutely no personal space for almost an hour trying to get a mimosa, which I ended up not really liking. We stayed until about 1:45 am and then sleepily headed home and quickly went to bed.

The night was a lot of fun and memorable. I can’t wait for other festivities and holidays that Italians celebrate. Tomorrow is sort of a continuation of the Rificolona festival I think where a lot of attractions around the city are open for free; like the Duomo terraces, Giotto’s tower, the Duomo Museum, and a Duomo workshop.

History of Rificolona

According to Christian tradition, on September 8 of an unknown year somewhere near Nazareth the Virgin Mary was born.

In Florence, the large basilica of Santissima Annunziata is dedicated to her worship and thus her birthday is a day of celebration. Today, the religious celebrations are followed halfheartedly but at one time it was a great popular tradition where hundreds of peasants and farmers from the surroundings would make the long trek into the city to celebrate.

While the pilgrimage was the official reason for the trip into Florence, the farmers did not come into the city empty handed. It was a great opportunity to bring in their goods – cheeses, honey, the season’s vegetables, and small hand made items. Thus September 8 was also a market day in the square of Santissima Annunziata.

In order to arrive to the religious services on time, many started their journey before the break of dawn. The farmers needed lanterns and these were often carried at the end of stick, candles protected by a frame made of thin cloth. The tradition continues today so that on the eve of the 8th of September, Florentines and other “pilgrims” carry paper lanterns at the end of a stick as they make their way through the streets of Florence, from Piazza Santa Felicita to Piazza Santissima Annunziata, guided by the Cardinal. A speech is made in the square, followed by a final party in the square.

Today, a market is still held in the square in the form of a huge fair of organic produce on September 6 and 7.

So if you attend, you might wonder why the older children blow spit wads at the paper lanterns? It is said that this also goes back to when the peasants would make the pilgrimage in their best clothes, but as they were poor and overdressed by city dweller standards, they were derided (it is interesting to note that today Florentines call an overdressed, over made-up woman a rificolona). Florentine children would make their own, more beautiful, attractive lanterns in colored tissue paper to follow along, while others would target the paper lanterns with spit wads in an attempt to furtively hit them, make the candles fall over and set the lantern ablaze. It is very common for most lanterns to be burned by the end of the night.

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