* This post first appeared here *
Every city throughout Italy is blessed with a patron saint.
Bologna has Petronius, Rome has St. Frances, and in Florence, our patron is St. John the Baptist.
Every year on June 24, according to the Catholic calendar, is his feast day, and as a result, Florence celebrates.
With the shops and a large majority of restaurants closed, some might wonder what there is to do that would make the city fun and exciting.
Luckily, throughout the year, the city of Florence is busy planning festivities. If you are lucky enough to be in Florence on this day, you will find no shortage of things to do!
One of my favorite parts of the day is the calcio storico or the historic soccer match.
It is a brutal form of historic soccer that dates to the 16th century, and in the past it was played mostly by aristocrats and teams were made up of the four “quarters” of the city.
In fact, these quarters still exist today:
— Santa Croce Azzurri (Blues)
— Santa Maria Novella Rossi (Reds)
— Santo Spirito Bianchi (Whites)
— San Giovanni Verdi (Greens)
You can always tell when the calcio match is approaching because each of the quarters start to resemble their colors. Red ribbons and flags will appear on doors, windows and shop fronts all over Santa Maria Novella, and the same happens with my neighborhood in Santo Spirito. You can’t walk around without seeing white flags and white ribbons on all the houses, windows and businesses.
What happens when the match is finished and one of the quarters has claimed the win? The entire neighborhood has a giant block party festival!
During the day there are also parades in Renaissance attire, various concerts, flag throwing and other merry making. From morning until night, the city is alive and bustling with excitement.
Then, to cap off the day, fireworks are lit over the city.
Everyone crowds outside to claim a good spot with wine, food, blankets and snacks to watch the show.
Have you ever visited a city in Italy while they were celebrating their patron saint? How was it?