Parades, Calcio Storico & Fireworks are part of the celebrations
On June 24, Florence celebrates the feast day for its patron saint, St. John the Baptist, considered the "symbol of moral rectitude and political correctness"* on whom medieval Florence aspired to build its economic fortune and good government of the Republic. The image of the saint was even stamped on the city's currency, the florin.
This 2021 we still don't know how the patron saint will be celebrated, although the Calcio Storico Fiorentino will take place in September (check dates here). Some of the sections below have not been updated, as we hope to give you an idea of what the usual celebrations are and hoping we might still be able to have some later this month!
Make a Note
Consider that many shops and offices close in the afternoon, if not the entire day in Florence, for feast day celebrations.
The day has thus been a day of celebration for the city through the centuries. Every year, for St. John, the city organizes several cultural and folkloric events that end with the magnificent fireworks show, called i fochi di San Giovanni by Florentines.
The celebration feast of St. John has ancient origins: nobles and lords would celebrate the patron saint of the city by donating large "candles" or votive offerings called ceri in Italian to the churches, consider back when there was no electricity and this was the only way to light an interior. Churches needed lots of candles, it was a large expense.
With the growth in the city's importance as well as the lords, the candles became larger, more beautifully decorated and valuable. Some were made especially for the Baptistery (which is dedicated to the saint) and others were made especially to be sold. All funds were donated to the Church. You can read more about this history of past traditions on the Duomo's page dedicated to San Giovanni.
In the morning: civic parade and mass
Even today, the morning of June 24 sees a small civic parade that includes the city's major and other political officers, following the city standard from Palazzo Vecchio (the center of civic power in the city) and symbolically takes the offering of candles to the Baptistery in Piazza Duomo, the religious center in Florence. There, the Archbishop of Florence receives the offering and all follow into the Cathedral to celebrate Holy Mass (around 10:30am).
See All June Events
June is a busy month in Florence with the start of summer and the great outdoors, see a list of all upcoming events.
On a boat on the Arno
Just for this day of celebration, there are generally boat rides organized on the Arno river throughout the day as well as into nightfall once the fireworks are to begin. The rides are offered by the Renaioli, who take visitors onto their special boats.
For more details, you should contact them directly, you'll find their contact details here: http://www.renaioli.it/.
Opening of the San Niccolò Tower
June 24 is also used to mark the opening of the San Niccolò Tower by the Arno river. One of the oldest towers that lines the ancient walls that surrounded Florence, the tower was restored and opens to the public only during the summer period. The tower remains open until September 30th, open every day from 5 to 8pm. Small groups go up at a time, with a guide (in Italian, English, French and Spanish). Entrance costs 6 euro. For more details and to book, you have to contact Mus.e - Palazzo Vecchio at +39 055-2768224 or +39 055-2768558.
An Evening 10K Run
Some events start a bit earlier than the 24th, like the annual "NOTTURNA DI SAN GIOVANNI" held on Saturday, June 20. This year it will be a virtual competitive run that requires participants to install an app on their phones. Read more details on the official website.
The final match for Calcio Storico Fiorentino
It is tradition that on June 24, the final match for Calcio Storico Fiorentino is played. The fascinating game, born in the 16th century in Renaissance Florence, is a mix of soccer, rugby and wrestling. It generally gets quite aggressive. The two teams that won the two semi-final matches among the four teams - the teams are by neighborhood and are Santa Croce (blue), Santo Spirito (whites), Santa Maria Novella (reds) and San Giovanni (green) - play on June 24th at 5pm on the special field set up on Piazza Santa Croce for the entertainment of both residents and visitors alike.
Tickets are hard to get: they have been offered online on Boxol.it in the past few years but many locals have complained that it is hard to get tickets to go see their teams. In 2018, rumors are that tickets will only be sold directly at Boxol's offices so that residents have the chance to buy their tickets before any others. If this is the case, you might arrive in Florence and not get a chance at all to buy tickets. I would suggest contacting your hotel or other lodging and see if they can help you acquire tickets through them ahead of time.
Before the match, around 4pm, a historical parade starts from Piazza Santa Maria Novella and winds its way through the city center to arrive in Piazza Santa Croce. For additional info on the Calcio Storico, read this article.
The "fochi di San Giovanni" or fireworks of St. John
The long day of celebration for Florence's patron saint end with a spectacular fireworks show. The fireworks take place sometime between 10 and 11pm and are set off from dal Piazzale Michelangelo, an elevated positing that makes it possible to see them from various places across the city.
For the occasion, many Florentines and visitors spend the evening out, stopping at one of the many "strategic" points from which to admire the show of lights over the city.
Some choose to admire the show directly from Piazzale Michelangelo but many more from the streets along the Arno called "lungarni" where there are also many areas offering refreshments and seats, such as the beach on Lungarno Serristori (right below Piazza Poggi).
In the historical center, many hotels, villas and restaurants that have a terrace with a view organize special evenings with cocktails, dinners and entertainment before the fireworks show (for example, the Gran Hotel Cavour and Villa Bardini).
Starting in the late afternoon, Piazzale Michelangelo and the streets nearby start being closed and alternate routes are enforced. Some of the streets along the Arno are also closed so it is best to move on foot or to park far from the area and then walk.
Enjoy the day and evening fireworks!
Last update: June 11, 2021