My friend Lisa had mentioned the Festa della Rificolona to me at least a week ago, but I didn't think I'd attend because I knew it was mostly for children. When I went to meet up with my friend Stef, who used to live here, at a parco (park) near Piazza Libertà today, I didn't think I'd be going to the Rificolona. We were joined by her friend and her friend's daughter for dinner near the Duomo and I accompanied them to Piazza Santissima Annunziata.
They had created a lantern in the shape of an elephant to take with them to the Rificolona. They held it on a long stick as we strolled down via dei Servi toward the piazza. A sea of people were walking in the other direction, which worried us: the festivities were supposed to start at 9:45 pm and it was already 10:15 pm. With so many people walking in the opposite direction, we thought maybe they ended early. However, when we arrived in Piazza Santissima Annunziata, we saw large crowds gathered all around and we knew it hadn't yet ended.
To light the little girl's lantern, her mother had to ask around for an accendino (lighter). Within seconds of lighting it, little boys came around to spit clay pellets at it, as is the tradition. It was quite sad to see holes rip through the handmade lantern. I walked around to see what else was going on in the piazza, and got hit a few times by stray clay pellets.
Up under the loggia of the Ospedale degli Innocenti, they were awarding the best lanterns while children watched other lanterns burn to the ground in the piazza.
I hadn't read much about the Festa della Rificolona before going, but the children seem to enjoy it a lot. I overheard people talking to each other and many of them hadn't seen each other since the end of school. I heard people asking, "Come sono andate le vacanze? How did your vacation go?" Still dressed in summer clothes, sporting tans and wearing large smiles, it looked more like a big reunion for the parents and children than anything else.
I walked home alone while the other three stayed longer to enjoy the festa some more. I thought it was interesting to attend, but definitely without a child to accompany, it wouldn't have been much fun. Just to see the little girl's eyes light up when her mother held the lantern up in the air was priceless. Unfortunately, when the clay pellets punctured her lantern, she didn't look as happy.
Next time I'd like to see what goes on in Piazza Santa Croce to commence the festivities, and how they all organize themselves to march to Piazza Santissima Annunziata. It must be quite a spectacle to see.
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