Curious Florence: Florence and the Explosion of the Cart

Among the most characteristic Easter events in central Italy is the Explosion of the Cart in Florence, Tuscan Capital and UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1982.

The celebration dates back to the First Crusades, undertaken to liberate the Church of the Holy Sepulchre from the hands of the “infidels.”

Legend has it that a Florentine crusader that was the first to climb the Jerusalem walls was gifted with three splinters of stone from the Church; today they are held inside Florence’s Church of the Holy Apostles.
According to historians, once the crusaders liberated Jerusalem (on Black Saturday, no less), they gathered in the Church of the Resurrection to receive the “holy fire,” symbol of purification.

The Florentines’ Easter customs go back to this very ceremony: that is, the Florentines’ tradition has long been to go to the Church of the Resurrection and light a small torch of holy fire with the sparks that emit from the rubbing together of the stone flints. At such a point they undertook a procession through the city to then take the holy fire to each house.
In time the ritual came to include transport of the holy fire (burning coals) by cart. It was in the 14th Century that fireworks were thrown in the mix, resulting in the “Explosion of the Cart.”

The Explosion of the Cart

White oxen led the car from Piazzale del Prato to Florence’s Church of the Santissimi Apostoli, while a dove (in reality, a bird-shaped flare) sets fire to the fireworks in the cart.

The mechanism in detail involves a cord that runs the length of the Church, from its choir to the cart outside the church entrance. The dove flare slides along the cord, and bounces off the cart, thus setting off the fireworks before returning backwards on its own.
It is said that if the explosion goes off without a hitch and the dove makes its return to the altar unimpeded, it is a good augur for Florence for the rest of the year. The tradition is always a big draw for tourists, citizens and, especially in the past, inhabitants of rural areas that based their hopes and fears regarding harvest, flooding, etc. on the dove’s success. In fact, the devastating flood that hit Florence in 1966 coincided with the fact that the dove had not returned to the church altar.

If you want to learn more about Italian traditions and cultures, take a look to our culture courses!

Discover Florence: The Vasarian Corridor

Vasarian Corridor

One of the most memorable thing you can do in Florence is to visit Vasari Corridor. Some people do not understand where this wonderful secret corridor of the Medici family is. In fact it is not simply visible and it is also not simply accessible for security reasons.

The Vasari Corridor is an enclosed private passageway long approximately 1km built in 1565 in just five months by order of Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici. The total design is planned by Giorgio Vasari, from which the corridor has taken its name.

Painting gallery

Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici has ordered to build this passage at the time of the wedding between his son Francesco I de’ Medici and Johanna of Austria. He especially wanted to be able to move freely between his residence, Pitti Palace, and the government palace, Palazzo Vecchio. In fact, since he had replaced the Republic of Florence, he felt insecure in public. The meat market on the bridge Ponte Vecchio was then replaced by goldsmith shops (that still occupy the bridge until now) to avoid its smell reaching into the passage.

On the other side of the Arno, the corridor passes over the loggiato of the church of Santa Felicita until it finally reaches the Boboli gardens and the apartments in Pitti Palace. The secret passageway contains over 1000 paintings, all dating from the 17th and 18th centuries, as well as the important collection of Self-portraits by the greatest Masters of Western Art, like Giorgio Vasari, Andrea del Sarto, Bernini, Canova, Delacriox, Chagal and many others.

The Vasari Corridor can only be visited through guided tours organized by travel agencies and the costs are a little bit expensive. However, it will surely be worth the visit!

If you want to visit the Vasarian Corridor with a private guide, check out our Guided Visits in Florence!