Early Easter morning a huge crowd of Florentines formed in Piazza Del Duomo as a tall, ornate cart was rolled in. This was part of a yearly event meant to start Easter Sunday with a bang… quite literally.
It was my first Easter away, and the biggest holiday I’ve missed since leaving home. My roommate, JP and I began the day exiting our apartment door, only to be immediately met with a parade made up of dozens of Florentines in traditional 15th-century garb. Some were marching, many were playing music and a few were leading a set of white oxen.
These oxen were towing a towering cart of two to three stories and ornately decorated in red and gold.
The event we were witnessing was the “Scoppio del Carro,” which translates to the “Explosion of the Cart.” It is a 350 year old tradition in the city of Florence, Italy. The music and marching we had become a part of culminates in between the Duomo, the large cathedral in the center of Florence, and its baptistery, when a priest sets ablaze a white dove (These days the dove is fake, don’t worry!) The dove-shaped rocket flies from the inside of the cathedral to the cart in hope to set the cart alight with a grand fireworks display.
The ceremony is said to predict good fortune for the upcoming year. If the dove sets off the cart and returns to the altar, a lucky year and a fruitful harvest are ahead. If the dove does not return the next year will not be so fortunate, as was the case in the year of the 1966 flood.
JP and I were very quickly separated by the immense swaths of people joining in the festivities. I ended up in the middle of a cultural intersection point. To my left was an Australian winemaker, in front of me was an American businessman from New Jersey and his wife, and to my right was a French man and his young son and I had found my way right into the middle of their conversation.
It’s getting to be the time of year in Florence where people travel from all over to visit the city. It’s “tourist season” in Florence, sure, but we were all united today on this holiday.
This year is set to be another lucky one, as our fireworks went off without a hitch. The ten minute display (a sample of which can be found below) rivaled any Fourth of July fireworks back home and was a wonderful way to spend this past Easter morning.