Curious Florence:

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Florence represents one of the most charming and  important art cities in Italy, visited every year by thousands of tourists from all around the world.

Florentia, this is its ancient name, is the town that marked the history of our country and of Europe, it’s no coincidence that Florence became, for a few years, the capital of Italy.
Cradle of Italian language and culture, it represents the symbol of Renaissance as well, Florence experienced the greatest  splendor during the fifteenth and the sixteenth century in reason of its political power and of its rich cultural and artistic flowering.
During the Medici Dynasty and in particular during the Lordship of Lorenzo il Magnifico and Cosimo I, the town became one of the most important cultural poles of attraction in Europe.

Would you like to discover more about Italian and Florentine History? Check out our History of Florence courses!

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!

Curious Florence: An endless love at Grifoni Palace

Florence is a wonderful city, in fact it doesn’t requires a lot of work to fall in love with it. This Italian city is a living museum, where every street, alley, and building is full of history.

The undisputed charm of the city of Florence comes not only from all the works of art you can see in every street, but also from the imperceptible hidden details, elements that can escape the eye at first glance.

I am now going to reveal you one of these hidden elements that will surely blow your mind:

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Grifoni Palace

On the corner between Piazza Santissima Annunziata and Via dei Servi there is the Palazzo Grifoni (more known as Palazzo Budini-Gattai), which is a red brick palace. When you observe the palace from the square you might notice that on the facade of this building there is a particular window that is always open.

One of the most less known Florentine legends relates that the Grifoni family lived in this building for centuries and it is said that toward the end of the sixth century, one of the Grifoni sons went off to war (which was not something uncommon at the time) and was so forced to leave her beloved wife.

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The open window

The beautiful lady ran to the window to greet him one last time and to watch him leaving. The legend tells us that the wife spent all of her time sitting nearby the window, hoping to see her husband again. The love of her life never returned home, and when she died, the window was shut.

There are two different versions to this story:

Some say that the neighbors of the two lovers were so touched by the profound love story that they decided to reopen the window.

Other people say that when the window was closed, objects inside the room began to fly and furniture began to shake. As a servant reopened the window, everything returned normal. This makes us understand that this woman’s love is still there and her spirit still waits for her husband’s return and will probably wait forever.

No one knows the woman’s name and no one will ever know which one of these two stories is true.

For more stories and legends about Florence, do not miss our history of Florence tours!