On the eve of the Nativity of the Madonna, September 7, Florence holds one of local tradition’s most original festivals: the Rificolona, still close to many residents’ hearts and rooted in the folkloric spirit of the city.
The name derives from the word “Fierucola,” which means “small party,” and its origins date back approximately to the mid-17th century when, the night before the Virgin Mary’s birthday, countryside farmers would process in droves at nighttime, bringing their products to sell them beneath the loggias of piazza Santissima Annunziata, since the square’s church held religious celebrations in honor of the Holy Mother.
The farmers would arrive at nighttime, holding multicolored paper lanterns held up by rods that were referred to as “Rificolone” by Florentines.
Today the Festa della Rificolona is an event geared at children, who enjoy swinging their multicolored lanterns through the air. They might be handmade or store-bought, but they’re always in imaginative shapes; the children make their way through the streets in cheery procession, singing traditional songs such as the famous folk tune, “Ona, ona, ona che bella Rificolona! La mia l’è co’ fiocchi e la tua l’è co’ i pidocchi!”
The main parade is around 11 kilometers long: it leaves from Basilica di Impruneta at 4pm and ends in Piazza Santissima Annunziata in Florence at 9.30pm, passing through Piazza Santa Felicita, Piazza della Signoria and Piazza San Giovanni. The traditional blessing of the Rificolona takes place in Piazza della Santissima Annunziata.