Rificolona – The Lantern Festival

Man, I’m really slackin’ on getting these posts up! I swear, I’ve had this one ready to go for a few days now. Real life has a bad habit of eating my time. Not that real life is bad. It’s just busy. Really busy.

Anyway, last Wednesday I had a chance to see one of Florence’s annual spectacles: the Rificolona. It’s essentially a festival by children for children. Granted, there’s a bit of adult fun later in the evening involving a cultural dance performance and street vendors peddling their delicious wares, but all in all, it’s for the kids. Now, that is. There are plenty of origin stories for this festival, which includes the toting of lanterns through the city streets, ranging from the triumph of Florence over Siena to celebrating the eve of the Feast of the Madonna. I didn’t see much of the actual procession, but apparently the Cardinal led it. I knew that those guys dressed in ceremonial robes were important!

While the cultural aspects of the festival were not lost on many, I’m fairly certain that the real allure was watching all the little boys running around with blow guns trying to pelt the lofty lanterns. The goal was essentially destruction. Not even going into the possible fire hazards this could be sanctioned for in the States (the lanterns are lit with candles), a bunch of rambunctious boys with permission to spit-wad anyone in the vicinity is just asking for trouble. But it was good trouble. Girls gave as good as they got, and everyone really just wanted to see the paper burn into a heap on the ground once the night was through.

Prior to the Rificolona, though, I saw with my new friend, Daniel, an exposition of some dance studio out in the square behind Piazza della Republica. I’m not entirely sure where they came from but I was excited to see some Argentine Tango. Maybe this weekend I’ll hunt down that studio. I’d be totally remiss to stop dancing. (I’ve been dancing the Argentine Tango for nearly two years now.) This show was interrupted by moments of crowd dancing led by the professionals and everyone really got into it. I had a hard time of it, seeing as dancing with an expensive camera around my neck is not the best of ideas, but photographing everyone else making fools of themselves was excellent fun. They even played “Bomba,” a song I recall fondly from our earlier years in Spain. I definitely danced to that one!

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