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Carnival in San Gimignano Carnival is a wonderful time to be in San Gimignano and although traditionally it is meant to start on January 6th and continue until Mardi Gras, which falls 47 days before Easter, it usually tends to drag on a bit longer. Nonetheless, most of the festivities occur within that window and it is best to witness it while it’s in full swing. All of Italy celebrates at this time of year by feasting, dressing up, parading intricate floats and letting loose. San Gimignano is no different. In addition to their joyous celebrations, the people of San Gimignano use the occasion to spark a bit of rivalry. The people of the Maremma and Piazzetta districts do their best to produce the two finest floats they can and then display them around the city with masks and spectacles in tow. Whichever float is deemed to be the most beautiful and entertaining is proclaimed the winner. And while the spirits of the losers may initially be dampened, the continued celebrations and infectious energy manage to bring the townsfolk back together.
MARCH | APRIL
Infiorata del Corpus Domini in San Donato in Poggio The 'Infiorata del Corpus Domini' is also known as the 'Flower Festival' and is an Italian tradition that is practiced in San Donato in Poggio, and across the rest of the nation. It is a beautiful and symbolic part of the 'Corpus Domini' or Corpus Christi which allows every man, woman and child to take part in decorating the streets with a myriad of flowers to form an intricate carpet on which the Blessed Sacrament is carried upon by the town's bishop.This colourful and fragrant celebration takes place on the Ninth Sunday after Easter, allowing it to fall on a different date every year. If you happen to be in San Donato in Poggio during this time of year than the chance to mingle with the townsfolk and take part in an iconic celebration should not be missed as it is widely accepted for visitors to help decorate the streets with the locals and contribute to a tradition that has been taking place for hundreds of years.
Scoppio del Carro in Florence If you happen to be in Florence on Easter Sunday then you will undoubtedly take part in 'Scoppio del Carro' or “The Explosion of the Cart”. This fun event where a bit of fire meets a lot of fireworks has a long history, and can be traced back to 1097. According to legend, a young noble Florentine by the name of Pazzino de' Pazzi was the first to ascend the walls of Jerusalem during the First Crusade. In exchange for his courageous act he was given three flints from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. These were then brought home and now rest in the Church of Santi Apostoli. Fast forward nearly a thousand years, to the present day, and the city of Florence has managed to involve a towering 30 foot tall cart, laden with fireworks and pulled by oxen… At 10am the three flints are rubbed together to light the Easter Candle which in turn is used to light a cluster of coals on the cart known as the Holy Fire. The fire is then hauled by decorated oxen and accompanied by a procession of drummers and flag throwers, all in period costumes, until it reaches the Cathedral Square. At 11am the gloria is sung within the cathedral and the Archbishop uses the fire to light a dove-shaped rocket called the 'Colombina', symbolising the Holy Spirit. This dove is loosed along a wire and is left to fly out of the cathedral until it collides with the armed cart and sets off a dazzling display of fireworks. It is important to note that while to onlookers and visitors the event is merely an exciting and colourful addition to a religious ceremony, the people of Florence see the outcome of the explosions as a forecast of the year’s harvest. While unobstructed flights by the Colombina and complete combustion of the fireworks means a plentiful year, the opposite is said to be true for years when fireworks are left un-ignited.
Serremaggio, Serre di Rapolano Every year, during the second week of May, the village of Serre di Rapolano comes to life to celebrate the Serremaggio. This tradition comes from the 14th century, when a rich merchant named Giovanni de' Rossi brought a beautiful French girl to the village and married her. This love story is reenacted in full by non-professional actors and bishops, who carry out the ceremonies in costume to add authenticity. The whole town is transformed into a medieval version of itself, and markets and food carts add to the ambience. Plays and shows are run back to back, feasts are held regularly and there is even a bit of karaoke! The week is jam packed with exciting events so be sure to pick up a schedule if you plan on attending this wonderful festival!
Camucia Fiera, Arezzo Visiting a fair or fiera anywhere in the world is an interesting experience, and Camucia is no different. From the 22nd of May you will be able to find stalls filled with exciting things- fresh and locally made foods are available for you to browse through and sample, finely made shoes and clothes are displayed and sold, and even local flowers and plants can be bought. Camucia does do one thing slightly differently, as their fair is also a party. Live music is played, and locally made wine is served, and you can pleasantly enjoy yourself whilst scanning through the many products made by the residents of Camucia for this eagerly anticipated occasion. Don't forget to pick up a souvenir for yourself or friends and family to bring a piece of your trip home with you!
Maggiolata in Lucignano The Maggiolata in Lucignano is a beautiful floral festival that highlights all the best things about spring. Taking place on the last two Sundays of May, this celebration includes a rivalry between the four local districts to create the most elegant floral float, traditional Lucignano folk music, exquisite local cuisine, exhibitions, dancing and much, much more. Despite the two main parades taking place on both Sundays, there is more than enough to do on the days in-between and you won’t find a minute where there isn't something to enjoy. With such a long list of events you are sure to miss a few, but whatever you do, be sure to catch the Vespa Rally that takes place during the afternoon of the second Saturday. This hilarious and exhilarating race is truly unique!
Giostra del Archidado, Cortona A truly entertaining and memorable event, the Giostra del Archidado or 'Archidado Joust' is not to be missed. The Joust itself is the culminating act of a week-long celebration called “Medieval week”, which also includes a wedding and a medieval market. Over the course of the first week in June the city of Cortona slowly transforms into a 12th-century version of itself and you will start seeing people dressed up as if it were the Middle Ages. Eventually, on the evening of the Friday leading up to the second Sunday of June, the city hosts the exciting 'Flag Flier Games’. The following day is dedicated to reenacting the wedding that inspired the whole tradition, between Francesco Casali, the lord of Cortona, and Antonia Salimbeni, a noblewoman from Siena, in 1397. The wedding is carried out in full, and the joust which celebrated their union takes place on the Sunday. The event is offers a taste of medieval life and is completely unforgettable.
Festa di San Giovanni, Florence One of Florence's main festivities, the 'Festa di San Giovanni', or Feast day of St. John the Baptist, Florence's patron saint, is an all-encompassing event that takes place every year on the 24th of June. If you are lucky enough to be in Florence on this momentous day then you will have to prepare yourself for a whirlwind of enthusiasm and tradition. After a small parade in the morning, the blessing and mass take place at the Baptistry to mark the beginning of the festivities. A lavish parade then departs from the Piazza Santa Maria Novella at around 4:00pm and makes its way through the town. Its participants truly embody the spirit of the celebrations by dressing up to fit the part and you may find yourself feeling a bit out of place when surrounded by steel helmets, spears, drummers and flag bearers! After slowly winding its way through every major Piazza in town, accumulating participants as it goes, the procession reaches Piazza Croce where you will be able to watch the final match of the Calcio Storico Florentino, which has been described as a mix of football, rugby and wrestling, around 5:00pm. It is recommended to purchase tickets for this match early on due to high demand. After watching the game you can stroll the streets of the Arno or Piazzale Michelangelo to find a suitable place for refreshments, food and a fine view of the spectacular fireworks display that takes place between 10 and 11pm to mark the end of an incredible day.
Ferie delle Messi, San Gimignano It’s celebrations galore in the stunning ‘city of towers’ that is San Gimignano. Ferie delle Messi, or Medieval Harvest Festival, takes place on the third weekend of June every year to celebrate and welcome a good harvest. Starting on the Friday night, the town takes a step back in time, mimicking a typical medieval festival. With music and dancing, and even some flag-throwing, the fun begins. Over the rest of the weekend, the fun and atmosphere escalates as knights and their horses take part in a big race – the Giostra dei Bastioni – where they hit a helmet hung up on a pole to win the Golden Sword, said to represent wealth and fertility. Then typical games of tug of war and archery ensue. And for the real spectacle, watch the Grand Procession, as over 500 people in medieval costume parade through the narrow cobbled streets of this UNESCO World Heritage site. The whole town gets involved, residents decorating their houses with flags and banners, and restaurants serving up traditional Tuscan fare. Bursting with Romanesque and Gothic buildings, iconic towers and fantastic piazzas, this is one special place to walk around at any time of the year, but the Ferie delle Messi certainly heightens the experience.
Calcio Fiorentino, Florence Held in Piazza Santa Croce, dressed in tremendous Roman pantaloons for their team colours of Azzurri, Rossi, Bianchi or Verdi, locals slug it out in a fierce game of Calcio Fiorentino. Calcio Fiorentino is Florence’s unparalleled answer to conventional football, in which 54 topless men fight it out (literally) with hands and feet to get the ball past the line. This ancient form of football is a thrilling throwback to the Renaissance era when it is said Pope’s enjoyed a game in the grounds of the Vatican, although I’m not sure we’ll see Pope Francis in such an outfit anytime soon. Played every year on the 24th June.
Palio dei Rioni, Castiglion Fiorentino Visit the little town of Castiglion Fiorentino on the third month of June and you'll be transported back in time to one of the most celebrated events in Italy - a palio. Like the famous Palio di Siena, the Palio dei Rioni in this petite Tuscan town between Cortona and Arezzo, sees horses galloping around a piazza in a bid to reach the finishing line first. Held in the impressive Piazza Garibaldi, this race centres around the ancient rivalry between the three 'rioni' or districts of Porta Cassero, Porta Fiorentina and Porta Romana. Dressed in medieval costume, you will also see the ancient custom of flag-waving and parades along the streets, followed by parties in each quarter. The atmosphere is electric, and perfect for anyone who would rather avoid the larger crowds the Siena Palio attracts. Castiglion Fiorentina is a small walled city known for its towers and historical buildings including the Keep. But, the views from the arches of the Vasari Loggia are what really make it stand out for many. Boasting far-reaching sights of the stunning Tuscan countryside, there are certainly some fantastic photo opportunities to be had.
Il Gioce del Ponte, Pisa It’s not all about the leaning tower in Pisa. Head to the grand River Arno that winds its way through Pisa from Florence on the last Saturday of June, and you’ll be greeted by one spectacular event – Il Gioce del Ponte. Translated as the Game on the Bridge, this ancient event is basically a battle between two historical teams: the Tramontana and Mezzogiorno, over who gets control of the bridge Starting with a big military parade along the Arno River and culminating in a battle on the Ponte di Mezzo, participants dressed in 16th century Spanish-style military costumes, push a cart weighing several tonnes, whilst judges decide who performed the best. Attracting around 100,000 people every year, make sure you pitch up early for a great view. And then you can go and see the leaning tower before strolling around to find somewhere to eat a sumptuous Tuscan supper.
Il Mercato delle Gaite, Bevagna See a Tuscan town in all its medieval glory, and visit Bevagna at the end of June. This beautiful town in Umbria re-enacts what it would have been like living at this time, with a festival. Inspired by the division of the 4 districts, which once divided the city, the markets compete with each other in order to win the Palio della Vittoria, which will prove how well they interpreted the theme. Apart from the sheer spectacle of wandering around the streets and alleyways strewn with hay, passing people dressed up, there are stalls to browse and buy from, musical and theatrical acts taking place in the streets and traditional fare being served up for a tempting treat.
La Bruscellata in San Donato in Poggio It’s always nice to stumble upon those charismatic, low key events that leave you wondering how they have maintained the authentic feel for so long and 'La Bruscellata' in San Donato in Poggio is just that. While it may not be amongst the most well known of festivities to occur in Italy, it is 10 days of feasting and fun, taking place between the end of June and the beginning of July, which is eagerly anticipated by the whole of San Donato. Thanks to the pedestrian friendly nature of San Donato in Poggio, you will be able to stroll around and take in everything that is happening at your own pace. In between the parades and donkey races that take place during the Bruscallate, be sure to spend ample amounts of time in Piazza del Pozzo Nouvo to sample all of the fine foods and wines that are produced locally. If you are looking to appreciate some of the fine artists from the area, then in Porta Fiorentina you can find various musical events that take place, whilst enjoying more of the local refreshments, and in the towns historic centre there are stalls with artisans displaying their wares. If you have a chance to witness 'La Bruscellata' in all its glory then you must. The whole spectacle is colourful, imaginative, thoroughly entertaining and above all extremely memorable.
Monteriggioni Medieval Festival Ever wondered what it was really like to live in medieval times? There’s no need to wonder when you visit Monteriggioni in June and July. On certain weekends through these months, a medieval festival of epic proportions takes place inside the magnificent intact walls of this town. Perched perfectly on top of a hill, lush countryside surrounds this medieval fortress with its celebrated towers, and within it the festival truly comes to life. Locals dressed up in historical costumes parade through the streets, some selling medieval crafts made of leather, stone and clay, whilst others perform juggling, live music and jesting. You may even get to see the challenge tournament between knights. Meant to re-create what it would have been like to live in medieval times, this is certainly achieved, with a jovial atmosphere, as everyone gets involved. You’re even encouraged to pay in medieval coins, minted in Lucca.
Teatro del Silenzio, Lajatio Prepare for the sound of silence if you’re visiting the open-air theatre in Lajatico, unless you’re visiting in July, when Andrea Bocelli and guests take to the stage for one day only. Built in Andrea Bocelli’s hometown, on his suggestion, the theatre was built purely to open one day a year. Featuring such guests as Placido Domingo, Sarah Brightman and Kenny G, who have in the past joined Bocelli on stage, it’s a fantastic line-up with a symphonic orchestra and choir who usually join them. Quiet for the rest of the year, the Teatro del Silenzio very much stands by its name. The location for this event is simply stunning. Lajatico is a small pretty village in the heart of Tuscany, but it’s the surrounding countryside that is jaw-dropping. And, to watch the sun set over this picturesque spot is certainly worthy of a picture, or ten! With the ancient town of Volterra nearby, and Florence a day trip away, it’s certainly an event and an area not to be missed.
Palio di Casole d’Elsa The palio races of Tuscany are much-loved by locals and visitors. The atmopshere is incredible at such medieval competitions, and if you can get to watch it in fantastic surroundings, it is all the more atmospheric. So, to watch the Palio in the small hamlet of Casole d'Elsa in July is a treat indeed. In the Elsa valley between Florence and Siena, this small hamlet is not only pretty and a delight to stroll around, it has much to see. Inside its city walls, there are 15th-century towers, a lovely square with a rectory housing noble works of art, a Praetorian Palace, two stunning Romanesque churches, a small parish church, which again houses some art masterpieces, and little cafes, restaurants and shops to browse. And then, of course, there's the Palio of Casole d'Elsa where jockeys ride bareback on horses around a dirt track. Dedicated to St Isidore, like other palios, it is a race run between different districts of the city, distinguished by their arms and colours. The win is celebrated after with dinner, festivities and fireworks, which continues into the night. The whole day is a real thrill and certainly worth seeing. Try not to miss the blessing of the horses and the parade that precedes the race to really soak up the atmosphere of this traditional Tuscan event.
The Lucca Summer festival If you like big outdoor rock festival concerts, then the Lucca Summer festival is for you. It is one of the most awaited musical events in Italy. It takes place every year inside the walls of the historic Piazza Napoleone, Piazza San Martino and Amphitheatre Square. It normally starts at the end of June and runs all July. Since 1998, national and international bands and famous singers have performed on this stage; from Bob Dylan to Robbie Williams, to Ray Charles, Eric Clapton, Elton John, Simply Red and many others. The festival attracts hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world and is a true Italian rock festival experience.
Cortona Mix Festival To call this arts and cultural festival in Cortona a ‘mix’ is no understatement. Held in late July and early August, the cocktail of performances, discussions, meetings and exhibitions that take place are diverse, interesting and inspirational. In some of the most beautiful buildings of Cortona, including the Piazza Signorelli, the Teatro Signorelli and the MAEC (Museum of the Etruscan City of Cortona), contemporary and ancient genres mix seamlessly. Contemporary art, films, operas, discussions about the environment, book awards, visits to wineries, rock, folk and classical music, and dance performances are just some of the treasures on the agenda.
Cortona On The Move As far as hosting a travel photography exhibition goes, the picturesque town of Cortona, in Tuscany, could be seen as the perfect place. This jewel of a hilltop town is petite and beautiful. Narrow streets lined with cute shops, welcoming cafes and excellent restaurants lead up to the attractive piazza where you can sit and watch the world go by. Wander out to the edges of the main square and you’ll be greeted with far-reaching views of that stunning Tuscan countryside. So, it’s no wonder that as soon as ONTHEMOVE cultural association launched Cortona On The Move – an international photography festival – some of the world’s top photographers were eager to show off their work there. Exhibitions, showcasing some of the best travel pictures in the world, along with panel discussions and travel exhibitions means this has quickly become an important event. Held July through to August in some of the most beautiful buildings around Cortona, hurry and visit, before the event gets any bigger!
Siena’s Piazza del Campo, Il Palio JULY & AUGUST. Surely one of the most anticipated events of the summer is the Palio di Siena - Italy’s most famous horse race. Taking place twice a year (2 July and 16 August) in the distinctive shell-shaped Piazza del Campo, ten stars from the Sienese districts – contrades – race against each other in a bid to win the ‘palio,’ a silk banner depicting Madonna and child. Dating back to 1644, the people of Siena are as passionate about the race today, as they were when it began, which is evident in the atmosphere on the day. It really is quite thrilling. Before the race, a procession of around 600 people dressed in medieval costume takes place, and thick layers of dirt are laid down around the piazza ready for the horses to race just three laps around the track. Taking all of 90 seconds, it’s over in a flash, but what a magnificent 90 seconds it is. Make sure you arrive early to get the best position you can. Many of the locals pitch up in the morning, even though the race takes place early evening. And while you’re in Siena, do not waste a moment. This magnificent city with its maze-like medieval walled streets, awe-inspiring buildings and excellent restaurants is one of the most glorious places in the world to stroll around.
Palio dei Castelli, Badia Tedalda Step back in time and head to the little town of Badia Tedalda, near Arezzo in Tuscany. In this rustic village bursting with characteristic stone buildings and cobbled streets, is a fantastic medieval festival. Amidst an ancient setting, alive with traditional music and food, is the Palio dei Castelli horse race, where knights of the ten castles of Badia Tedalda compete for the prestigious cloth and plate of Sant Angelo Michele. A fantastic event held in August with an electric atmosphere, it's certainly worth seeing. And, whilst you're in Badia Tedalda, take time to walk around, noting the 16th century church and many cute restaurants serving fine Tuscan fare. Then, walk off lunch and head out into the countryside, searching for buzzards and wild boars.
Ludus Balistris, Volterra What better place to watch a crossbow tournament than at the magical Piazza dei Priori in the medieval city of Volterra. On a Saturday in August,a re-enactment of an historical duel takes place, much to the delight of onlookers. The teams consist of Volterra, Chioggia, Pisa and Terra del Sole (Litab) and Massa Marittima, Lucca and San Marion (FIB). Drawing some of the best archers from all over Italy, the skill involved in the tournament is of a very high standard, making this an important event on the Italian calendar. And the fact that it takes place at night, making the target harder to see, adds to the thrill and atmosphere of this unique medieval event. And make sure you see the historical parade that precedes it. As nearly 200 people wind their way around the streets of Volterra towards the grand piazza, you’ll be greeted by the beating of drums, sound of trumpets and flag bearers showing off their skills. Meander around the streets, taking in the magnificent fortified walls, ancient gates, Roman remains and magnificent Romanesque cathedral. It’s quite a city!
Sagra della Bistecca in Cortona If you are a meat lover than this is the event for you! Sagra della Bistecca, or in English the 'Beef Steak Festival', is perhaps one of the most important events in Cortona during the summer. As a celebration of fine steak, chefs gather and prepare the succulent meat in line with Tuscan tradition, leaving it brimming with juices. The premium cuts are accompanied by excellent local wines, cleansing the palate and allowing you to savour every mouthful. You can find this spectacle happening every year, during the mid-August bank holiday in the public Parterre Gardens where enormous grills are laden with steaks and stalls sell local produce such as cheese, cold cuts, jams, desserts, olive oil and other delicious goods. Be sure to make an afternoon out of this special occasion to sample all the goods on offer, perhaps even taking home the ones that you simply can't bear the thought of not having in your kitchen!
Il Balestro del Girifalco, Massa Marittima To experience a real medieval paegant in historic Tuscany, head to Massa Marittima for an impressive display of shooting, as competitors arm themselves with authentic replicas of 15th-century crossbows their ancestors, used in the Balestro del Girifalco. Translated as The Trainers of Flying Falcons, participants aim at an image of the Girifalco - the gyrfalcon - its wings spread wide. The competitors, who represent three districts of the city aim to hit the Girifalco, with the one hitting closest to the centre, winning. Held initially as a way to keep the city's men sharp, it is a test of skills, speed and strength. Today it is one impressive festival - a weekend of history and tradition. The charming little city of Massa Marittima in southern Tuscany is decked out in vivid-coloured flags, and there's a fantastic parade an hour before the actual event, seeing 150 people dressed in full medieval costume parading through the streets. The flag wavers put on a spectacular performance adding to the incredible atmosphere. The town itself is beautiful, but visiting when this event takes place is magical. Held in the Piazza Garibaldi on the fourth Sunday of May and the second Sunday of August, it's a must-do if you're in this glorious region.
Bravio Delle Botti, Montepulciano On the narrow streets of the tiny Tuscan town of Montepulciano, the Bravio Delle Botti sees 80kg empty wine barrels frantically rolled along the steep uphill streets by teams from the eight different neighbourhoods to the local cathedral in the Piazza Grande. It is quite a spectacle to see sleepy streets that you’d expect to see on postcards with an elderly lady hanging her washing from a window, filled with cheering crowds, urging their teams on in an identical way to the different contrade of Siena urging on the horses, or the various quarters of Florence shouting for the Azurri, Rossi, Bianchi or Verdi. Last Sunday in August.
Volterra AD1398 Walk through the medieval town of Volterra between the third and fourth Sunday of every August, and you will be transported back to AD 1398. Yes, you heard right. This glorious Tuscan town is transported back in time as shops turn into old blacksmiths and carpenters, medieval fare is served up in the trattorias, and locals dress up as peasants, knights and noble ladies as they acknowledge and celebrate what life would have been like in the year AD1398. Walk amongst the locals and really soak up the atmosphere, imagining what it must have been like to live at this time. Kids will love it too, not just to marvel at all the people dressed up, but there’s a special area dedicated to children, hosting fun games and magical adventures. Then there’s the Procession of the Nobility, a crossbow tournament, jugglers, live music shows and an arts and crafts market where you can spend your Grosso (special medieval coins). Aside from this, Volterra is a very special place to visit with its protective walls, magnificent Romanesque cathedral housing important works of art and an historical centre that’s simply magical.
Settimana del Miele – Honey Week, Montalcino There’s only one place to be during honey week and that’s inside the walls of medieval Montalcino. Walk through this fairy-tale hilltop town and immerse yourself in everything honey. For one week in September, you can browse the honey exhibitions, read books about honey, buy cosmetics made from it and then actually taste just a few of the 51 official types of honey, including chestnut or acacia, which taste wonderful drizzled over figs or a little pecorino cheese. Honey is full of goodness, and hailed as being nutritious, soothing, antibacterial and beneficial for skin, so there’s every reason for it to be celebrated. And when you’re not celebrating the sweet nectar, wander around this magnificent town in search of gothic loggia’s, pretty piazzas and fantastic museums – home to notable works of art. Then, take a seat, pour yourself a glass of the region’s precious Brunello wine, and gaze out on the breathtaking scenery of the Val d’Orcia – surely one of the most famous countryside scenes in the world. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Palio dei Cerro, Cerrito Guidi If you’re visiting Tuscany, there are so many unknown gems that are easily missed. Cerreto Guidi is one of those places. Only 30 minutes from Florence, it’s slightly off the beaten track, even though it’s near Montalbano and Leonardo’s hometown, Vinci. The pretty circular village, surrounded by the most glorious Tuscan landscapes centres around the grand Villa Medicea – a world heritage building with an illustrious past. And it is in front of here that the Palio dei Cerro takes place on the Saturday before the first Sunday of September. Held in honor of Santa Liberata, four districts led by a captain compete in a number of games, trying to win first in every one. These include a crossbow tournament, tug of war, launch of the rings and other medieval games. There’s also a wonderful parade of locals dressed in Renaissance-style clothing to add to the wonderful atmosphere. Outside of the Palio dei Cerro, Villa Medicea is a museum for the rest of the year where you can browse portraits and antiques belonging to the Medici family. And be on the lookout for the ghost of Isabelle dei Medici who is said to have died at the hands of her husband in this villa, and still roams the corridors!
Holy Cross Celebrations, Lucca The 'Processione di Santa Croce', or Holy Cross celebration, which takes place in Lucca every year on the 14th of September, is one of the city’s most prestigious events. Residents of Lucca and visitors from around the world gather to venerate the 'Volto Santo', or Holy Face, which is a celebrated crucifix that, according to legend, was carved by Nicodemus with the aid of divine intervention. It came to rest in the city around 742 A.D, and is renowned for its apparent exactitude to Jesus's face. The Celebration starts at the Basilica of San Frediano, where candles are lit to create an atmosphere called 'Luminara', and a procession of people soon makes its way through the narrow, winding streets of Lucca. Slowly, the worshippers follow the trail of candles that rest on every balcony and door step, walking amongst people bearing drums and banners, until they reach the Cathedral of San Martino, where the Holy Face resides, and pay homage to Christ. The Holy Cross celebration is only one event within a whole month of festivities throughout September that make up the 'Settembre Luchesse'. Markets showcasing local handicrafts and produce spring up, agricultural fairs take place and there is even an amusements park to be enjoyed. With the cultural experiences, delicious food and exciting events, this is certainly the best time of year to visit Lucca.
Festa dell'Uva - The Grape / Wine Festival Impruneta What better place to celebrate the grape harvest than with a glass of wine - or two - in Chianti. The end of summer marks the beginning of the grape harvest, and for many towns and cities of Tuscany that can mean only one thing - a grape and wine festival of course. One of the oldest festivals of this type is in the lovely old town of Impruneta - the Festa dell’Uva in September. Here, in the charming Buondelmonti Square, you will witness spectacular floats, dancing, music, tastings and a delightful arts and crafts market. But, that's not all. Huge floats bearing displays made of grapes are paraded through the town, with constructions getting more elaborate with each passing year, in a bid to win best interpretation of the theme. Expect confetti, fireworks, jugglers on stilts and grapes thrown in to the audience, to add to the spectacle and carnival-like atmosphere. Known for its iconic Basilica and producing that famous Tuscan teracotta in every form imaginable, there are certainly some wonderful places to explore in and round the town, but be sure to sit down for a sumptuous Tuscan meal too, and relax with a glass of Chianti, of course!
Boccaccesca Food and Wine Festival, Certaldo As the saying goes, ‘the trouble with eating Italian food is that five or six days later you’re hungry again.’ Yes, when you eat Italian food you eat lots of it, so prepare yourself for the Boccaccesca Food and Wine Festival if you’re visiting Certaldo in October. For in this charming medieval town, amidst the rolling Tuscan hills, you will be encouraged to try new and traditional delicacies whilst walking the cobbled streets. And don’t forget your set euro endless wine glass to fill up at every stand. Here you might try porchetta, pecorino and pasta – food to satisfy the soul, while making the most of tasting sessions, cooking lessons, talks by food specialists and demonstrations by chefs. And there’s more as circus performers take to the streets, children’s workshops take place and entrants send in their recipes to Facebook hoping to win ‘FaceChef,’ as Boccaccesca steps into the 21st century. Make the most of Certaldo while you’re there, whether it’s dining on the terraces at a piazza, hopping on to a cable car to see the historic upper town, visiting the delightful churches or enjoying the views that stretch out towards San Gimignano.
Festival of the white truffle, San Miniato, located between Pisa and Florence in Tuscany Sometimes hailed as the ‘diamonds of the kitchen,’ this costly little delicacy is held in high esteem. So, it seems only right that there is a festival solely dedicated to the humble truffle. San Miniato, located between Pisa and Florence in Tuscany is the setting of this much-loved event. Over the last three weekends of November, the Piazza Del Duomo plays host to a number of stands, which invites visitors to taste the incredible white truffle, whether it’s in oils, pastes, sauces, or even on its own. Prizes are given to the biggest truffle and recipes shared with all those who visit. A gastronomic delight, with cheeses, wines and cold cuts also on offer, you certainly won’t leave hungry. Located in the lower Arno valley, the medeival town of San Miniato is a fantastic place to visit. Not only to see the Cathedral and impressive buildings around its historic centre, but to explore the surrounding countryside where the white trufflle is found. In fact, the world's largest white truffle was found in San Miniato in 1954. Rumour has it, the giant mushroom was given to US President, Eisenhower.