Rificolona Paper Lantern Festivities 2023

Thurs. 7:  RIFICOLONA (Paper Lantern Festival)

History underlies Florence’s annual Rificolona festivities which take place annually on September 7.

Before the 21st century, Tuscan farmers and shepherds would arrive in Florence on the evening of Sept. 7 from the Casentino and Pistoia mountains in addition to San Piero in Campo (Elba).  Often traveling from the countryside and mountains at night, lanterns provided visibility for their path. The pilgrims would congregate in Piazza Santissima Annunziata (Holy Annunciation square), dedicated to Mary, and after religious observances, hold a market.

Apart from the actual participants, little has changed today.  Hand in hand with their parents, Florentine children walk through the streets carrying candle-lit paper lanterns (known as rificolone) when darkness falls on Sept. 7.  The word is derived from “fierucolona,” which is what Florentines disparagingly called the farmers who arrived for the market, from fiera (fair) and culona, referring to the peasants “big-bottomed.”

The Orticoltura Park (via Vittorio Emanuele 3) is hosting a Rificolona workshop for kids so they can create their own paper lantern on Wednesday, September 6 at 4, 5 and 6 pm.  Cost is €5 and reservations are required; send an email to info.heyart@gmail.com or call 3338622307 / 3471271339.  At 7 pm children will walk in the park with their glowing paper lanterns.

Official Rificolona festivities on Thursday start at 2:30 pm, when a procession will begin to walk to Florence from the sanctuary of Santa Maria dell’Impruneta, one of the most ancient and important shrines dedicated to the Virgin Mary in Tuscany.  The church’s Madonna dell’Impruneta icon, carried to Florence’s Santa Felicità church in the medieval period, is believe to have saved the city from the plague.

In commemoration, again this year the procession will stop at Santa Felicità (8 pm) before moving to the Piazza Signoria to meet up with a parade headed by city dignitaries and then to Piazza San Giovanni across from the Baptistery (8:30 pm), where participants will be greeted by Florence’s Cardinal Giuseppe Betori.  Illuminated by rificolone, it will arrive in Piazza Santissima Annunziata where traditionally city officials and the cardinal will speak (9 pm).  The basilica of Santissima Annunziata will remain open to all from 4:30 until 11 pm, where one can also admire a medieval fresco of the Annunciation, and a depiction of the Resurrection by Mannerist artist Bronzino in addition to architecture by Michelozzi and Leon Battista Alberti.  (rosanna cirigliano)