Hidden treasures

The 'Rificolona': a funny name tracing back to the mischievous spirit of Florence’s people!

Local Traditions

The 'Rificolona': a funny name tracing back to the mischievous spirit of Florence’s people!

Lanterns are now very fashionable and are used at parties and weddings. Florence, however, has always been ahead of time, so much so that there is a tradition dating back to the '600 revolving around the use of these fascinating objects! The 'rificolona' is no more than a lantern. A lantern that, nonetheless, is linked to an ancient story imbued with the typical jovial Tuscan spirit. Are you curious to find out more? Good, we'll only tell you about it after first giving you a short language tip. If you say this funny name in Florence pay attention to pronounce it correctly, i.e. the way people from Florence do it. In other words, make sure the 'c' in the middle is silent!

But let's go back to the 1600s or so. On the occasion of the Feast of the Santissima Annunziata, which was celebrated on 7 September, a market fair used to be put together in the square in front of the basilica and in the nearby Via dei Servi. It was a great opportunity for the farmers and shepherds of the farming areas of Prato, Casentino and the Pistoia mountains to grab the best spots from which to sell their goods. They would depart at night so as to arrive in Florence as early as possible. To light the way, they used lanterns made of paper or thin cloth hung on reeds or poles. These folks, accustomed to the untamed countryside rather than the comfort of cities, appeared to be rough and uneducated. The young people from Florence used to make fun of and mock the poor peasants. They particularly targeted women who, moreover, seemed to have 'more generous body sizes' than those from the city. To emphasize the large size of their backside and the fact that they also attended the fair, they nicknamed them 'fierucolone'! Slowly the meaning of the nickname was altered into 'rificolone' to be associated with the lanterns typical of the 7 September festival. And that’s the origin of the funny name of Florence’s lanterns!

Starting from the nineteenth century, people took to building lanterns with the strangest shapes and even today for the Feast of the Santissima Annunziata these colorful objects can be seen everywhere in Florence and also along the River Arno during the colorful river parade. If you happen to be around, you may even hear the "rificolona jingle" that every child from Florence knows by heart: ona ona ma che bella rificolona, la mia l’è co’ fiocchi la tua l’è co’ pidocchi’! It’s true Florence has a funny side perfect for children too! Don’t you believe it? Then take a look at our 'Kids Tour section'! You will be dying to set off, with your little ones in tow, for the wonderful Tuscan capital.

By Insidecom Editorial Staff

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