Florence’s Feast of San Lorenzo Festivities 2023 with Free Museum Admission

Cooks preparing the meal for guests at the Feast of San Lorenzo (photo by Elif Aytemiz)

Florence’s San Lorenzo church, up the street from the Cathedral (Duomo), located in a characteristic Florentine neighborhood near the Mercato Centrale, will celebrate its namesake, St. Lawrence on his feast day, August 10.

The Feast of San Lorenzo has its civic and religious aspects.  At 10 am, a historic pageant of city residents in Renaissance costume will meet from the Palagio di Parte Guelfa, and walk down via Porta Rossa, Via Calzaiuoli, Piazza San Giovanni, Via Martelli e Via dei Gori to Piazza Signoria, where the city officials and ceremonial flag-bearers will join the parade that will proceed down via Calazaioli to Piazza San Giovanni, via Martelli and via dei Gori, ending in Piazza San Lorenzo.  Mayor Dario Nardella will present lit candles which will receive a solemn blessing by Florence cardinal Giuseppe Betori, who will celebrate Mass.

The festivities continue in the evening and include a free dinner offered to all comers starting around 8 pm. The food and beverages are courtesy of the San Lorenzo Market Consortium, with members of the Florentine and Tuscan chef’s association and the volunteering as short-order cooks and servers. The feast day menu, like most things in Italy, is traditional:  short penne pasta topped with hot ragù (tomato and meat and sauce), authentic and delicious, with slices of ice cold watermelon or yogurt as dessert.  This will be followed by a free concert in front of the basilica at 9 pm.

It is also the night of the falling stars, Perseid meteors should be clearly visible.

San Lorenzo was the Medici family church (the Medicis ruled Florence for three centuries), and Cosimo il Vecchio de’Medici commissioned the construction of nearby Palazzo Medici Riccardi in 1444.  Thanks to the connection, the museum and shows in Palazzo Medici Riccardi will remain open until 10 pm on August 10, with free admission for residents of the greater Florence metropolitan area with the display of a photo ID.  Palazzo Medici Riccardi hosts the Magi Chapel with the Benozzo Gozzoli frescoes of the Journey of the Magi featuring the portraits of Medici rulers on horseback such as Lorenzo the Magnificent in addition to a fresco by Luca Giordano in the Galleria degli Specchi.

The evening also provides an opportunity to visit the Luca Giordano show at Palazzo Medici Riccardi, again with free admission for residents of the greater Florence metropolitan area (formerly the Province of Florence). The evocative exhibition displays the masterpieces of the Baroque painter, Luca Giordano (1634-1705). In a fusion of religious, mythological and allegorical imagery, viewers are immersed in a retrospective of the artist’s unprecedented skill. Going beyond the conventional interpretations of classical themes, the canvasses bring to life dramatic scenes – exploding with exaggerated movement and exuberant detail – that push past the standard artistic criterion of his time.

Notorious for the nickname, ‘Luca fa presto,’ Giordano was acknowledged as one of the most prolific artists of his era, due to his colossal output of artworks. On display is a selection of almost 50 paintings, each holding the unbounded capacity to evoke emotion through dramatic visuals and pronounced realism. Standing at the pinnacle of Baroque art, the collection showcases the lasting legacy that his elaborate paintings and decorative frescoes have had on the Florentine art scene.

The Luca Giordano show, photo courtesy of Mus.e.

Not only does the show celebrate Giordano’s deep-rooted mark in the history of Baroque art, but it acts as a testimony to the many relationships the Neapolitan painter formed with noble Florentines. In the 1680s, the artist would be commissioned by some of the wealthiest Florentine families – who immediately grasped his potential. Among these were the Medici Grand Dukes, as well as the Del Rosso, Corsini, Sanminiati, Andreini, Martelli, and Riccardi families, each of which fueled the production of his Baroque masterpieces. This publicized his talent throughout the country and later helped to establish his international success as a court painter in Spain, one of the most powerful monarchies in the world at the time. The exhibit applauds his patronage and centers itself around the many connections that the ‘master of Baroque’ had with the city of Florence.

The display begins on the ground floor of Palazzo Medici Riccardi, where visitors can wander through a series of rooms whose walls are adorned with rich oil paintings. A palette of deep shadows and impressive illusions of light, stand in harmony with glowing colors that seemingly illuminate the room. Typical of the Baroque era, the artist uses chiaroscuro (a play of strong light and shade, a technique established by Caravaggio). The use of a dark backdrop freezes each moment in time, evoking silence on the canvas and dramatizing the scene. The contrast in color value (from angelic glow to darkened shadow), highlights a bold degree of realism in the religious and mythological images presented.

The continuation of the exhibition on the first floor of the Palazzo is not to be overlooked. Inside the monumental Gallery of Mirrors, lies yet another fascinating scene of Giordano’s Baroque art. In this case, the art stands in a direct dialogue with the vaulted architecture. The opulent space is decorated with all-embracing frescoes, created by Giordano himself. The luminous and multi-dimensional setting provides the most fitting backdrop for the selection of 10 paintings by the artist on loan from the National Gallery in London. Viewers have the ability to mindlessly wander around all corners of the room, in awe of both the architecture and the parallel collection of art on display. (Rosanna Cirigliano & Emma van Zuthem reporting on Luca Giordano)

To see a video of the Luca Giordano show, click here.