Every year, on June 24, Florence pays tribute to its patron saint John the Baptist with an array of traditional events. Co-funded by Fondazione CR Firenze and the City of Florence, all the San Giovanni day events are organized by Società di San Giovanni Battista, whose purpose since 1796 has been to uphold and update Florentine traditions.
According to tradition, the Marzocco statue of the Florentine lion in piazza della Signoria will be crowned four days prior to the feast day of Saint John the Baptist, on June 18, at 11am, using a headpiece designed by local goldsmith Paolo Penko.
The June 24 festivities get underway at 8.30am with the Corteo degli Omaggi parade, along via Folco Portinari, piazza Duomo and via Calzaiuoli, as far as piazza Signoria, where the cross of San Giovanni, also handcrafted by Paolo Penko, is handed to the Mayor of Florence in the Sala di Clemente VII at the Palazzo Vecchio. Outside, in piazza della Signoria, the Bandierai degli Uffizi will delight locals and internationals with a flag-throwing display at 9.15am. The parade will leave the Palazzo Vecchio at 9.30am with the Gonfalone di Firenze flag and the accompanying Famiglia di Palazzo flagbearers, walking to the Baptistery, where candles and the cross of San Giovanni are gifted to the Archbishop of Florence at 10am. At 11am, a solemn mass will be held in the Cathedral.
The afternoon’s activities include the Palio Remiero river regatta at 6pm among the four neighbourhoods of Florence on the Arno between Ponte alle Grazie and Ponte Vecchio. As anticipation builds for the annual firework display, known as the Fochi di San Giovanni, at 10pm, the Italian Air Force Band will delight onlookers for an hour, conducted by maestro Pantaleo Cammarano. In an effort to modernize the celebration and embrace the international interest in Florence, this year’s fireworks will be live-streamed on Società San Giovanni Battista’s Facebook, YouTube and website, as well as on the SE·STO on Arno Restaurant & Bar del Westin Excelsior Florence’s Facebook page.
From June 23 to July 28, check out Fabrizio Fabrini’s stamp exhibition, John the Baptist, Patron Saint of Florence. Stamps of art and history, in the halls of the main post office in via Pellicceria 3.
Where to watch the San Giovanni fireworks
For the “cheap seats” (which means you’ll be standing up and jostling for a spot), head to lungarno Diaz, lungarno delle Grazie and lungarno della Zecca Vecchia. For a more relaxing (and upmarket) experience, leading hotel restaurants such as SE·STO on Arno, B.Roof and Empireo are all San Giovanni favourites for their rooftop locations.