Saint John's day: all you need to know!

On June 24, Florence celebrates Saint John's Day, the patron saint of the city.
The choice of St. John the Baptist as patron was made only after the conversion of the city to Christianity, infact initially the patron saint of the city was the god Mars, his statue had been placed at the beginning of the Ponte Vecchio and was swept away by the famous flood of 1333 that devasted the city.
The conversion to the new religion happened in the Lombard period between the VI and the VII century BC. Saint John was already the patron saint of the Lombards, and given the combative nature of the saint, the passage from the God of War to Saint John was immediate.

However, the patron saint of Florence began to be celebrated on June 24 only from the XIII century.

It was tradition that the noble Florentines would donate richly decorated candles to be lit in front of the Baptistery, a structure that had been built during the Lombard era, right where the Temple of Mars used to be: here ended the celebrative procession that transported a huge candle on a cart from Piazza della Signoria. The Cart of Saint John later gave origin to the Easter ceremony of the Scoppio del Carro (Explosion of the Cart).
Then there were the processions of citizens and nobles who paraded exhibiting their sumptuous chariots, the Palio dei Berberi: a horse race without jockeys, which started from Ponte alle Mosse and crossed the city center to get to Porta alla Croce.

The Medici family then introduced the Palio dei Cocchi in 1563 with the Grand Duke Cosimo I. During this competition, four carriages representing the different districts of Florence circled Piazza Santa Maria Novella around two wooden poles, represented by the two obelisks now present in the square.


San Giovanni today
Today, on the 24th there are numerous events in the city, starting from the morning ceremony in Piazza Duomo, which includes the procession in which candles are symbolically brought in the Baptistery as a gift to the Patron Saint and the following Mass celebrated in the Duomo.

In the afternoon there is the final match of the tournament of the Calcio Storico Fiorentino, played every year in Piazza Santa Croce, set up for the occasion with a small stadium complete with stands and a sand-covered field, where the players face each other in their typical coloured puff trousers.

The highlight of the celebrations, however, are the traditional Fuochi di San Giovanni.

The Florentines flock to the streets, onto the bridges, trying to grab the best place to watch the fireworks show, which start at 10pm.

It is one of the annual events that Florentines love the most and families and friends often gather for a dinner before going all together to see the so-called "fochi", which are reflected on the water on the Arno riverbanks, illuminating the night of Saint John.

So this year, have an early dinner, make sure you get yourself a cozy spot with a vantage point overlooking Piazzale Michelangelo and enjoy the show!

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