a month of celebration
Between the Festa della Donna, the Italian Father's Day and Easter, March is one happening month in 2016. Combine this with the traditional sagras, exhibition, markets and fairs that happen every year - there won't be a free minute on your calendar!
This year we celebrate “una Pasqua bassa”, which means earlier than most, and though the days and evenings are still a bit chilly, everyone is looking forward to the renewal of spring and a few days of holiday. Most of all, many await Pasquetta (Easter Monday), a day for excursions together with relatives and friends. March is full of days that are slowly getting longer and warmer, perfect for touring the region and visiting the many food festivals taking place all over Tuscany.
Here is a list of some the more colorful events throughout Tuscany, you won't be disappointed. There is definitely something for everyone to enjoy.
March 8th Celebrates Women
A day dedicated to women. It was officially created in the States 1909, later adopted by several European countries and by Italy in 1922. The objective is to honor and celebrate women while bringing attention to the unsavoury conditions that many are still forced to live under. A guided tour in Florence will celebrate women as protagonists throughout the history of this great city. (Tre Passi per Firenze) and on the 5th of March there will be the first Feste della Donne del Vino, with its theme "Wine at the table" will explore and celebrate the women who are pioneers in a predominately male sector: the production of wine in all of its phases.
Italians will celebrate with the gift of the small delicate yellow blossoms that are just making their way out for Spring: the Mimosa. And the Florentines will celebrate with free entrance into all State and Civic Museums in Tuscany for the ladies.
March 19th Celebrates Fathers
Besides the classical tie, wallet or hammock for Father's Day the Italians love to celebrate the day honoring San Giuseppe with a fired delicacy: the Fritelle. The recipe varies from filled with rice or raisins or pinenuts ... or not but it is always fried and it is always best eat hot. Some of the more classical sagras include that of Bagno Ripoli and San Donato in Collina (they have over 30 years of experience doling out this specialty and they now have a gluten free option. These sagras are ongoing for the month of March until the 20th and are open only on Saturday and Sundays. Montefioralle puts on quite the show with an enormous pan where the local women gather to fry'em up, but they only are serving on the 19th of March - the real Father's Day.
Events throughout the province of Grosseto are mainly dedicated to the celebration of Saint Joseph and all fathers as March 19, Saint Joseph, is Father’s Day in Italy! In Pitigliano, every year on the 19th of March there’s the traditional Torciata di San Giuseppe, a night parade ending with a giant bonfire; inhabitants used to get together around it to celebrate the Fire Ritual and welcome in the new agricultural season, in the hope everything will turn out well.
Semproniano celebrates every year on the Sunday following the 19th of March, so this year on the 20th, their patron saint with a parade and a band winding their way through the streets of the village. The traditional Saint Joseph cakes (frittelle, round masses of rice and raisin cooked in milk, then fried and sprinkled with sugar) will be the main protagonists of the manifestation. If you particularly like these delicious cakes, consider that they are a secular tradition all over the region, prepared into different shapes and flavours according to the location, just like cenci are during Carnival.
March 27th Celebrates Easter
In Castiglione di Garfagnana (in the province of Lucca), there will be the traditional Processione dei Crocioni on March 24, a procession during which an anonymous penitent dresses up as Jesus Christ - chained and bearing a Cross - and walks through the tiny streets of the village. The peculiar aspect of this event is that the anonymity of the penitent is so important that the person is usually shut in a wardrobe from the previous evening until late on the night after the procession!
On March 25, many locations of the province of Grosseto - from Santa Fiora, Porto Santo Stefano, Montorsaio to Castel del Piano to list some - will be home to the traditional Good Friday Processions: inhabitants, tourists and everyone interested in taking part and learning more about this annual date of the Catholic calendar will be parading behind the person representing the dead Christ, who has been taken down from the holy cross and carried during the entire procession.
The province of Siena pays its tribute to the holy Easter procession with the Giudeata, an event that has been taking place in Chianciano Terme since ages (this year on March 25 at 9:30 pm). A historical parade - with more than 150 people dressed up in costumes representing several characters of that time, such as the Roman soldiers, the pious women crying after Jesus' death, etc - will wind its way through the town center following a beautiful wooden cross (symbol of Jesus). This manifestation draws crowds of people every year, tourists and persons coming from nearby locations, attracted by this faithful and touching historical reenactment.
Grassina will be also home to an event that draws thousands of people every year in occasion of Easter celebrations: the historical reenactment of the Passion of Christ together with a parade in ancient costumes that will be taking place in different locations of the town on Good Friday (March 25). For a more detailed look into the Easter celebrations in Florence and province, read our article on March events in Florence. Another type of Easter Parade will take place in Porto Stefano, where they hold the Pasquavela a sail boat race on 26, 27 and 28 of March 2016 - the colors and sea breezes are not to be missed!
In Chianti, it is possible to explore local and international rituals at La Rocca di Staggia near Poggibonsi. Entrance into the Castle will include a chance to participate in several activities that combine that past with the present, exploring flavors, traditions and sounds for this holy event and passage into spring. Tickets must be purchased in advance. The Cradle of the Renaissance will be holding one of the most important events of the Florentine calendar on Easter: the Explosion of the Cart, a secular ritual of local tradition. A parade with drummers, flag-throwers and people dressed up in historical costumes will parade across the city’s center to end up in Piazza del Duomo, where the explosion of the cart will take place (Easter Sunday March 27).
Desserts, sweets and chocolate
Chocolate is likely one of the more appreciated products of Tuscany... or it sometimes feels that way! Choccolandia will be held in Cecina at Villa La Cinquantina from Friday 9 March (6 pm to midnight) Saturday 10 (from 10 am to midnight) and Sunday 11 (from 10 am to 8 pm). A festival dedicated to all chocolate specialties to be tasted and discovered, every year it draws the best chefs from all over Tuscany and Italy to showcase their latest discoveries and creations about chocolate, including uses on aesthetic and artisan fields.
In the province of Pistoia, San Quirico, one of the ten Svizzera Pesciatina quaint villages (officially referred to as castella) will be home to the traditional Sagra del Neccio (a sort of sweet crepe made out of chestnut flour and filled with sweet ricotta cheese or nutella chocolate). The square of this medieval location will be hosting typical food and craft specialties and stands for a day dedicated to tradition and food (March 9).
The annual date with the Florence's food event is called Taste and it will pay tribute to the flavours of Italy on the 12 -14 of March. As to be expected, the event is fully dedicated to local and regional food-and-wine specialties.
The entire province of Florence will be celebrating local products and traditional recipes starting from the Mugello especially in Scarperia, Festival del Cinghiale e del Tortello - festival dedicated to wild boar and fresh handmade stuffed pasta and then moving on to Pelago (Sagra dell’Ocio, the Goose Food Festival).
When Nature meets Culture...
Arezzo and province
Arezzo will be celebrating the Festa della SS Annunziata on the 25th of March, with many stands offering antiques, handmade crafts and, of course, local food and wine specialties.
In Badia a Ruoti there will be the Magnani Festival on the 14th and 15th of March: a celebration of old arts and crafts (magnani were those people who cared about domestic maintenance and fixing up works) with traditional music and dances, and, obviously, food!
From March 10 to 13, Sansepolcro will be home to Fiere di Mezza Quaresima (Half Lent Fair) with more than a hundred local traders and stands
Siena and province
San Gimignano has been celebrating its Patron Saint, Santa Fina, for centuries now (since March 12, 1253 when she passed over) with a solemn celebration taking place in the Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta (Duomo) and the renowned food-and-wine fair in Piazza del Duomo and della Cisterna (Festa di Santa Fina - Santa Fina Festival - March 12).
If you want to take part in an odd event, a special edition of the traditional Tuscan Palio will be taking place in Torrita di Siena from March 12, the Palio dei Somari (or Donkeys Race). Originally conceived to pay tribute to Saint Joseph - patron of woodworkers, whose activity is still very common today - the Palio celebrations start early in the week with the taverne or inns opening and throughout the following week dinners held in the various contrade (village quarters) participating in the competition. On Sunday, March 20th, the the donkey race is held. On the same day, there will also be a parade with people dressed up in historical costumes, flag throwers and drummers. More info and the detailed program here (page in Italian only).
Grosseto and Province
For those who enjoy the adventure - a bit of sweat and fantastic scenery, then the 20th of March marks the 10th Edition of the MTB Gara in Monte Argentario. Check out the itinerary starting in Porto Stefano...and sign up! More outdoor activitie in the Maremma area include a series of hikes following the Etruscans. Not only visit this wild and beautiful land but follow the steps of the Italian ancestors. Check out the Facebook Page for dates and itiineraries.
Pisa and province
On March 25, the city of Pisa celebrates the Capodanno Pisano, a commemoration of the historical calendar which was in use in Pisa and many other Tuscan locations until the second half of the XVIIIth century. According to that calendar, the new year began on March 25, on the day of the Annunciation to the blessed Virgin Mary. The historical reenactment celebrates the ancient tradition of welcoming the new year: a ray of sunshine entered the Duomo through a window and reached a place close to the altar at midday o’ clock. Today, the original window can’t be used anymore and has thus been replaced by a egg-shaped shelf set close to Giovanni Pisano’s pulpit. As part of the celebrations, a historical parade winds its way every year through the streets of the city and many cultural events are organized all over the old center, inviting all visitors to participate in the festive air that surrounds the city of Pisa on this day.
Lucca and province
On March 5-6, 12-13 and 19-20, Capannori will be housing the flower exposition Mostra delle Antiche Camelie della Lucchesia - Lucca's ancient camellia exposition. It will be held in Pieve and Sant’Andrea di Compito to be more precise, two quaint small villages set a few steps from the old walls that surround the city of Lucca. A path to the discovery of this marvellous flower, its Japanese origins and its many applications, including in preparing tea. For the occasion, a Japanese delegation together with an Italian-Japanese cultural association will be invited to show and explain this old Japanese tradition. The manifestation will also include guided visits to the surrounding landscape to explore the many villas scattered all over Lucca's territory, many exceptionally open to public: architectural jewels on the crown of this breathtaking natural setting. You can read more details on http://www.camelielucchesia.it/
The San Benedetto Fair in Aulla welcomes the arrival of Spring on March 22 with many stands with a never-ending variety of items, from food to clothes and shoes.
Florence and province
Not only Pisa celebrates the traditional Capodanno on March 25, Florence does as well: so you are still in time to make a few New Year resolutions! The Cradle of the Renaissance will be home to the Capodanno Fiorentino and the Annunciation to the Virgin Mary Day celebrations taking place around the SS. Annunziata church on March 31 (despite what usually happens: the Virgin Mary is celebrated on March 25 as well, but this year festivities have been postponed because of Easter celebrations).
To read more about of the events taking place in March through the province of Florence, take a look at this article.
All recommendations aside (be careful with eating too much chocolate and frittelle...!)... Happy Easter to everyone :-)