Florence Easter Cart
We joined a 'gazillion' people watching Florence's Easter cart on Easter Sunday. All 7 of us (Keith, Cindy, Janelle, Caleb, Jack, Anthony, Sam) sprinted to join the mob of people packed into every nook and cranny (hanging out windows, over terraces and flooding the street) that offered an able view of the cart-between-the-Baptistery-and-Duomo. It took some research, but we found out the cart did its 'firework thing' around 11am. Here is the scoop:
Around 9am Easter morning, this infamous, tall cart is escorted (with Chianina white cows pinned-with-flowers) to the Duomo's Piazza by musicians, flag-throwers and dignitaries in Renaissance costumes, where it resumes its annual let-the-dove-fly and 'explosion' of fireworks-with-colored-smoke (also called 'explosion of the cart' or Scoppio del Carro).
Meanwhile, another parade moves from the ancient church of Santi Apostoli by the Arno, solemnly carrying a fire kindled with the flints from the Holy Sepulcher.
At 11 am---during the celebration of Easter mass---the bells burst with noise and the bishop uses the holy fire to ignite the cart (via a rocket that starts in the nave and follows a steel wire, outside to light the cart). Bells, whistles and smoke follow; popular belief has it that if the explosion goes smoothly and is impressive---the year’s harvest will be good and plentiful.
Why the cart?
The festival of the cart dates to 1099: when the Crusaders conquered Jerusalem a Florentine---Pazzino de' Pazzi---was the first soldier to climb the walls. His reward was 3 flints of stone from the Holy Sepulchre, which today are stored at Santo Spirito Apostoli (a church near the Arno/Ponte Vecchio). The tradition was halted for a few years because the Pazzi family was plotting against the Medicis, but the cart festival was promptly restored by the wool guild.
Other Easter festivities: breakfast was appropriately a dove-shaped 'Pasqua Bread' plus champagne mixed with fresh squeezed orange juice. We hosted an Easter egg hunt in our flat (Sam/Jack/Anthony/Caleb finally found all 98 little chocolate eggs), enjoyed a walk across the Ponte Vecchio, happened upon La Specola (Science Museum), the boys played cards and we shared Easter dinner.