Much like Santa, the elderly Italian witch, La Befana, who fills the stockings of children on the night of January 5, has the power of appearing simultaneously in different places. This is true in Florence on Epiphany, January 6, which is the feast both of the Three Kings and La Befana. She will continue her generosity to children all day in the city of the Renaissance.
Here are her scheduled appearances:
La Befana will be the guest of honor heading a parade of vintage convertible cars from the Cascine Park (9:15 am), arriving in Piazza Santa Maria Novella between 10 am and 10:30 am. Once the cars arrive in the square, La Befana will distributing gifts to kids in addition to visiting young patients at the Meyer Pediatric Hospital with a bag of goodies.
La Befana and 15 of her helpers also will drop down from the arch of Piazza della Repubblica and simultaneously down the facade of the Rinascente department store across from the square at 11:30 am to hand out sweets to kids once on the ground.
After lunch, la Befana and five firefighters will take up the next challenge: drop down from the terrace of the Loggia dei Lanzi to Piazza Signoria. The event will begin at 3 pm, and children are invited to attend to receive candy and sweet treats from the lady herself. Her helpers will walk around to receive voluntary donations to help L’Associazione della Stanza Accanto, a non profit organization founded by parents who have lost their kids to lend a hand to other parents whose children have health issues or problems of an economic nature.
ALONG THE ARNO
Families are invited to take a free boat ride on the Arno accompanied by women dressed as La Befana, setting out from the Canottieri Comunali on Lungarno Ferrucci up to the Verrazzano bridge and back between 10 am and 12 noon. Hosting activities for all ages, the Canottieri Comunali boathouse is where each Befana will distribute stockings to kids filled with sweets donated by the Unicoop Firenze supermarket chain. Refreshments, including Christmas sweets such as pandoro and panettone will be offered to all, and adults will be handed a glass of warming vin brulè (mulled wine). Guests of honor that children are invited to play with are the water rescue dogs of the La Scuola Italiana Cani Salvataggio, who will also keep a collective eye out on the Arno excursions.
The Befanas are all members of Florence’s home team “Firenze in Rosa onlus,” a diverse and phenomenal group of women who have recovered from breast cancer and who row dragon boats as therapy. Engaging in this activity helps the women stay active and healthy. Rowing for long periods of time can be daunting, but creates a strong support network, the rowing serves as important physical rehabilitation as well. (rosanna cirigliano & rita kungel)