Posters went up in our local area about a week ago for Festa della Rificolona (which translates loosely as the festival of paper lanterns), which happens on 7 September to honour the Virgin’s birthday. Nic had had previous thoughts of us heading into the heart of Florence to see the lantern parade and enjoy the festivities; however, when we found out our own little community was putting on a weekend of festivities we decided to stay and try to meet a few locals.
Basically it is a festival where kids make lanterns, sing and dance and then, on the night of the lantern parade, use something like a pea-shooter (loaded with bits of clay) to shoot each others’ lanterns to put out the candle (alas candles are not used widely anymore, but that doesn’t stop the kids from shooting!). As you can imagine this was a highlight for the boys and there were many a time I was shot in the buttocks and head (by what seemed like ghosts as they are very fast at hiding these devices!).
By about 5pm on Saturday the smells of barbecued meats were wafting through the hills and beckoning our attention as to where it was coming from. We were unaware there was a big feast on for everyone to enjoy until our neighbours came over to let us know of the up-and-coming dinner. I had just finished making a chicken curry (we had previously made it down to the local Asian store for much-needed supplies), but it wasn’t a hard decision to pop that in the fridge and head on over to the community feast. We arrived to a long line of locals at around 7.30 pm and started introducing ourselves; questions of where we were from and how long we were staying were asked and there were smiles all round..we were starting to think we definitely made the right decision.
The picture above was taken just after we got in line and the picture below was taken just after we paid and entered the dining area!! To say the queue was long isn’t quite true; being in Italy it is perfectly justified to invite your friends who have come in late for the festivities to join you which instantly puts them further in front and you further back without really moving! Thankfully we were very relaxed and met a few other I Tatti people there so we did as the locals and invited them to join us too!
The kids were starving, grumpy and sick of standing by the time we finally sat down next to a lovely guy with his three strapping lads all around the same age as ours. Max was freaking out he hadn’t eaten yet while Alex was quietly wanting to go to sleep. The service, however, was spot on and we were eating our BBQ-ed meats within 5 minutes of sitting. The boys demolished the ribs they ate while Nic and I shared the grilled chicken and Tuscan sausage, all of it delicious! Now I also have to make a confession; we ordered patate fritte and despite my previous blog post of potatoes in Europe, these were hot crisp and fresh…..I think I need to apologise!
After dinner was eaten and wine was consumed ( a 1/4 litre carafe of vino rosso for 1 euro!!!) we were ready to check out the festivities under the blanket of night. I may also point out that it was also past our bedtime so Nic and I high-fived at the fact we were still up and on Italian time along with the kids.
So much effort had been put into a lot of the lanterns and it was a pleasure to see all the happy faces of kids, mums and dads alike taking pride in their works of art. The guys with the bug below were the family we sat next to at dinner, so we felt like we really were immersing ourselves in the local community and they were also impressed that we came from Australia to their neighbourhood!!
The evening went on with lots of singing, tears from babies who were in need of their beds and lots and lots of bubbles. There was this guy Mago Federico, who had these wonderful bubble rods that filled the sky with hundreds of bubbles for all to pop. It had been a while since I last popped a bubble and I forgot how good it felt to be a kid again….believe me I wasn’t the lone adult in this scenario!
As the evening went on I was starting to fade, I was told the finale, being a bon fire of the lanterns was happening at 10pm so I thought I could hold out until then. With a march of lanterns over our tiny bridge I thought we were getting somewhere……
However, I soon found out that was for the judging. The kids were outlasting a lot of the adults yet no one was budging! By about 10.30pm Nic had an espresso to stay awake and I went back over to bubble man for another bubble popping session.
It was about 10.45pm when the scarecrow led the parade of lanterns to the dried up river bed where the bonfire was to be lit. We all gathered around, people threw their lanterns down to the guys who were attaching them to the scarecrow and we all waited to see the end result
Alex couldn’t believe anyone would burn something they had spent so much time making and just couldn’t belive they were going to ‘blow it all up’ (I did tell him a bonfire wasn’t quite blowing it up but it didn’t register).
The lanterns went up in a roaring fire; at first we were all clapping and cheering,
and then it went up in a ball of fire where we all took a leap back……just to be on the safe side.
The lanterns were burnt for another year and we were tired but delighted we got to enjoy this experience with our new neighbours. Just when we thought it was all over, firework started sprouting from across the road and it was the first time in many years I have got a bit of something in my eye from debris of falling explosives, at which point Nic commented that only in Italy do they still let off fireworks right on top of the crowd! And with that we walked home in a sleepy daze, pleased with our efforts at becoming more Italian.