with parades, calcio storico & fireworks
Make a Note
Consider that many shops and offices close for the the afternoon, if not the entire day in Florence.
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.
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 to the churches. 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.
In the morning
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 by the city flag which leaves Palazzo Vecchio and symbolically takes the offering of cancles to the Baptistery. There, the Archbishop of Florence receives the offering and all follow into the cathedral to celebrate holy mass (around 10:30am).
See All the 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 the 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, every day from 5 to 8pm. Small groups go up at a time, with a guide (in Italian, English, French and Spanish). Entrance costs 4 euro. For more details and to book, you have to contact Mus.e of Palazzo Vecchio at +39 055-2768224 or +39 055-2768558.
The Night Marathon
Some events start a bit earlier than the 24th, like the annual NOTTURNA DI SAN GIOVANNI held on the Saturday the 17th of June. This is a marathon which starts at night and tours the city streets of FLorence capturing the magic of the city with the enthusiasm of the partecipants. See official program here.
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 aggresive. The two teams that won the two semi-final matches among the four teams - the teams are by neighborgood 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 can be bought online on Boxol.it; we recommend to get them in time as they generally sell out quickly.
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 terrrace 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.
* Quote is from http://www.duomofirenze.it/feste/sangiovanni_eng.htm