Easter in Florence: “Scoppio del Carro”
The “Scoppio del Carro,” is a traditional ceremony held on Easter morning in Piazza del Duomo, right between Florence’s magnificent cathedral and its Baptistery.
Florence is known the world over as a city bursting at the seams with art and history. And most people associate Florence with its famous art museums and historic palazzos.
But not all the city’s treasures are kept in a museum. Florence also boasts a wealth of colorful folk traditions that have been kept alive through the centuries.
While walking in Florence, you might just have the delightful surprise of encountering a procession in opulent Renaissance costume, led by drummers and flanked by flag-throwers. If you’re taking part in one of our Florence guided tours, we’ll tell you all about the historic events and traditions that these parades celebrate.
One such tradition is the “Scoppio del Carro,” or the Explosion of the Cart, which takes place each year on Easter morning. Held in Piazza del Duomo, right between Florence’s magnificent cathedral and its Baptistery, this is a unique event you won’t want to miss if you’re touring Florence around Easter.
The festivities begin with a grand procession: the crowd watches as soldiers, clerics and musicians march past. Then a team of white oxen wearing crowns of fresh herbs and flowers pulls a tall, colorfully painted wooden cart loaded with fireworks into the square.
Once in place, a metal wire is stretched from the cart to the high altar in the cathedral, and a mechanical dove called “la columbina” is set on the wire. Within the cathedral, the recital of Mass begins while you and the crowd wait expectantly.
Then, from within the cathedral, the cardinal of Florence lights a fuse on the dove, sending it speeding toward the cart with a whistling sound. You watch as the dove suddenly hits the cart, lighting the fireworks and setting off a thrilling pyrotechnic display. The crowd cheers as cart spills over with colorful sparks and billowing smoke, while the square rings with the sound of popping fireworks.
Where does this tradition come from? If you’re taking one of our Florence private tours, your guide will be happy to tell you the curious story behind this enigmatic event. You’ll be taken back in time nearly a thousand years, first to the Crusades in faraway Palestine, and then to Renaissance Florence, meeting characters from such important Florentine families as the Pazzi and the Medici.
When planning your next trip to Florence, you’ll certainly want to fit in all the art, history and tasty delicacies you possibly can. But experiencing one of the local folk traditions such as the “Scoppio del Carro” can give you a real sense of the city’s character and culture. And if you want to hear about the fascinating history and mysterious symbols behind these traditions, look no further than our Florence guided tours.