Spring out of winter and into Florence! The spring time is filled with beautiful and exciting new experiences waiting around every corner. Florence is no exception with its gardens, colorful festivals, and rich spring history. You don’t want to miss your chance to take a breath taking selfie in an alcove of wisteria, or the annual gelato festival, and make sure to see the 500 year old exploding cart on Easter. Florence has everything covered for an unforgettable spring semester.
The City of Irises
Littered with rich flower related history, like the fact that the Duomo is named Santa Maria of the Flowers, Florence also boasts some of the most spectacular gardens in and outside of the city center. From the Boboli Gardens, which inspired the gardens at Versailles, to the blooming wisteria that coats the Rose Garden and Villa Bardini, the city blooms with spring beauty. Be sure to check our list of Gardens and Parks in Florence to see where the best green spots are in the city.
Flowers and Fireworks, the Festivals of Florence
Spring is not only filled with flowers in Florence, but also festivals! One of the greatest things is to walk down the street and suddenly see a whole procession of people in colorful costumes. The processions usually have drummers accompanying them, announcing their presence for the whole city to hear. They also feature fun visuals like sbandieratori, or medieval flag throwing.
One of such festivals is the feast day of San Zanobi, the first bishop of Florence. In life he was said to have performed miracles, which earned him his sainthood. But the more fascinating legend occurred when his urn was being brought to the Duomo for burial. It is said that his urn brushed up against an elm tree in winter, and the tree bloomed with spring flowers. His feast day is now celebrated with an abundance of flowers throughout the city and a procession similar to the one when his miracle occurred.
A cannot miss event that happens on Easter is the Scoppio del Carro, or the Explosion of the Cart. Easter morning, outside of the Duomo a team of white oxen pull a highly decorated 500 year old wooden cart into the square. The cart is filled with fireworks and other pyrotechnics. At the end of Easter Mass in the Duomo, the cardinal lights the fuse wire from the high altar and sets the cart ablaze.
Florence’s Floral History
Did you know that Florence was actually named Florentia, which in Latin means flowering, by Julius Caesar when he founded the city? And flowers are an enduring emblem for the city whose coat of arms is a red iris in homage to the Iris Florentina which grew abundantly throughout the city when the Romans first founded the city. These irises grew naturally on the city walls and hills, which led the Romans to dedicate the city to the goddess Flora. The Iris Florentina is not actually red in color, but the emblem was made red to show the power of the city, and there is an on-going competition among botanists to create an iris in this vibrant hue. You can see some irises that come close to this bright red in the Giardino dell’Iris where there are over 1,500 types of iris flowers.
This stylized iris, or Giglio, bears resemblance to the fleur de lis, for which it is most often is mistaken for, and has the same symbolic iconography as the lily with its ties to the Virgin Mother and Florence’s patron saint John the Baptist.
April Showers Bring May Flowers
Flowers are not the only fabulous byproduct of spring arriving in Florence, the citizens start packing up their winter clothes and heading out to the countless fairs and markets that start popping up around the city.
Starting in March, Florence features an annual Gelato Festival, artisanal craft fairs, exotic flower markets and festival, and so much more.
Florence had always celebrated the coming of spring, most notably the first of May, which is a huge celebration of spring for most European countries. The Maggio Musicale Fiorentino was founded in 1933 to celebrate the rebirth of spring through song and dance. It was also the first music festival in Florence. The festival includes operas, ballets, and prose performances throughout the city.
Florence has a great night life, but Saturday nights have nothing on the Notte Bianca. On this “white night” the entire city of Florence parties on the streets from dusk till dawn. Museums, stores, and restaurants stay open late into the night, while DJs battle it out on the streets. This city wide street party is a must do so mark your calendars for April 30th.
The first week of March is Museum Week where all the national museums are free to the public. Also 8th of March is the Women’s Day, or Festa della Donna, a world-wide holiday commemorating women. Gentlemen make sure to buy the ladies in your life a yellow mimosa flower on this day, and ladies enjoy a day out with free museum access and women-only discounts at many restaurants, spas, and boutiques.
Another important spring holiday in Florence is the Festa della Liberazione, Liberation Day. All of Italy celebrates the 25th of April, when Italian forces successfully expelled the last of the Nazi and Fascist regime. The city celebrates this victory with public ceremonies, themed concerts and parades throughout the city.
The warm weather and the scent of flowers on the wind bring everyone out to enjoy the festivities, with the balance of exciting festivals and quiet gardens, it is a great time to be in Florence!