Events and traditions in Tuscany for the Feast of the Epiphany

5 min · 29 May 2023

Events and traditions in Tuscany for the Feast of the Epiphany

Epiphany all holidays take away“. An ancient proverb says so, and so does the calendar. It marks the end of the holiday season and is celebrated in Tuscany, as in the rest of the peninsula, with a series of themed events and initiatives.

What are the traditions that are renewed every year in Tuscany on the day dedicated to Befana? Let’s find out together!

The Cavalcade of the Magi

In Florence, the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore is organizing the historical re-enactment of the Cavalcade of the Magi. The event, which is inspired by the famous fresco cycle “The Chapel of the Magi” by Benozzo Gozzoli, involves a majestic procession composed of more than 700 figures led by the Three Kings on horseback. The procession usually departs from Piazza Pitti and parades through the streets of the historic center (Via Guicciardini, Ponte Vecchio, Via Por S. Maria, Via Lambertesca, Loggiato degli Uffici, Piazza della Signoria, Via Calzaiuoli) until it reaches Piazza Duomo, where the concluding part of the celebration is held. The origins of this event date back to the 15th century, when a festive performance called the Feast of the Magi was organized, in which the Medici also participated.

The Epiphany Train

In San Piero a Sieve the Befana does not arrive riding her magic broomstick but aboard an old steam train from the 1930s. The historic convoy departs from Florence’s Santa Maria Novella station at 9 a.m., travels through the landscapes of Valdisieve (passing through Pontassieve and Borgo San Lorenzo) and arrives in San Piero a Sieve around 11 a.m. Upon reaching their destination, adults and children are welcomed at the station with light refreshments and entertainment. At 1:00 p.m. the train departs from San Piero a Sieve to return to Florence (arriving at Santa Maria Novella at 1:45 p.m.).

The Epiphany Dive

January 6 in Marina di Pisa is the day of the Befana Dive. Pisans and Livornians, longtime rivals, put aside old grudges and come together to celebrate the arrival of the Befana with a nice dip in the sea braving the cold winter temperatures. An event that attracts hundreds of people including young and old. After the plunge, prizes are awarded to the youngest participant, the oldest and the largest group while the organizers distribute hot chocolate, sparkling wine and panettone.

The Befanata

A tradition rooted in history is that of the Befanata. This is the name given to the Befana song that groups of children and adults, accompanied by a player of accordion, fiddle or another instrument, sing from house to house on the evening of January 5 to get gifts or tips. At the end of the round, the participants gather to be together, eating and drinking what has been received as gifts from the families. This tradition is very much alive in the Monte Amiata area, Lucchesia and the Pistoia Mountains.

The Flying Hags

In many cities in Tuscany, as per tradition, the Flying Befane event is organized. What does it consist of? The friendly old lady jumps from bell towers and buildings to bring sweets and candy to the children present in the squares. This happens in Siena, Volterra, Cascina, Pisa, Pistoia, Santa Maria a Monte, Livorno and in the grotto of Equi Terme.

The living nativity scenes

On the day of the Epiphany, in various locations in Tuscany, one can witness the latest representations of living nativity scenes. Scenes, with attention to the smallest details, frame evocative theatrical representations that aim to depict the birth of Jesus and related events. San Piero a Grado, San Miniato Basso, Pescia, Badia San Savino and Castelfranco Piandiscò are just some of the towns where it is possible to live this wonderful experience.

Cover photo © PRESSPHOTO | Photo gallery © Comune di Firenze | Il Filo | Comune di Pisa

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