In the Unites States, bonfires might be lit during homecoming for a local sports team, or in New England for the Fourth of July, or perhaps along the levees of the Mississippi in southern Louisiana to light the way of Papa Noel's return at Christmas. But in Italy, although often related to a particular saint's day, bonfires have more pagan roots and meanings. Some are burned in early January to signify the end of one year and the beginning of another, while others are burnt during Mardi Gras (for Carnevale season) or during lent. In Italy the ritual of flames are evident in the many Bonfire Festivals, or Festa dei Falò.
"Madness is permissible once a year."
In Northen Italy, La Vecchia ("the old woman") is a huge wicker-woman effigy built of wood and vines and burned once a year as part of town festivals. As depicted in the film Amarcord by Federico Fellini, it has a more pagan-Christian connotation and is burned on Mid-Lent Thursday.
In Abbadia San Salvatore, a village in the south of Tuscany, bonfires called Fiaccole up to seven meters high are burned during Christmas Eve to warm up people around them waiting for the midnight.
In Southern Italy, traditionally bonfires are lit on the nights of the 16th and 17th of January, thought to be the darkest and longest night of the year. The celebration is also linked to the cult of Saint Anthony The Great.
In the town of Fano, Marches, from early February to Mardi Gras, they hold the Carnivale di Fano, one of the oldest--and sweetest--carnivals in Italy. During the festivities you can watch and take part in battle fought with chocolates and candy! Hundreds of pounds of sweets, caramels and chocolates are showered from parade floats onto the crowds of spectators, who then thrown them back or at each other. At the end of the month-long festival, there is the Rogo del Pupo, the Bonfire of the Baby Doll, a huge paper mache doll (a different one is designed and built each year).
- “Fiaccolata di Abbadia San Salvatore” - Torchlight of Abbadia San Salvatore on December 24, bonfires, music and food stalls offering sweets and mulled wine.
- “Fiaccolata di Santa Fiora” - Torchlight of Santa Fiora on December 30
- “Falò di Sant’Antonio” - Saint Anthony Bonfire in Filattiera on January 16
- “Disfida dei falò” - Bonfires of Pontremoli on January 17 and January 31
- “Scoppio del Carro” - Explosion of the Cart in Florence on Easter Sunday (March 27, 2016)
- Festival Internazionale dei Fuochi d'Artificio - International Fireworks Festival in Forte dei Marmi (usually between May and June)
- Luminara di San Ranieri - Candlelight Festival in Pisa on June 16
- Rificolona - on September 7
- Luminara di Santa Croce - Candlelight Festival in Lucca on September 13
Enjoy the heat of the flames!