Scoppio del Carro: Easter in Florence, Italy

While this is my first time living away from home (other than living on campus, of course), it was my third time spending Easter out of the country. My sophomore year of high school I spent Easter Sunday on a flight home from Germany; my senior year of high school, I was in Rome.

When researching the traditions of Florence for my study abroad class, I was excited to see that the city had a special Easter tradition–something to make being away from home on the holiday a little easier.

Scoppio del Carro, “the explosion of the cart”, doesn’t exactly sound like the kind of thing that would happen on a holy holiday. However, the explosion has been going on since 1100 when the Florentine people light a torch with “sacred fire” and used it to purify houses on the eve of Easter. By 1300, a cart was incorporated to carry the fire throughout the city. In 1494, a large and strong cart was built to endure the explosions from year to year–and it is still being used today!

Though the explosion itself only lasts for about twenty minutes, the ceremony is quite a production.

6:00am – 7:30am

Oxen carrying the cart for Easter in Florence.
The adorned oxen, later in the morning.

Four white oxen, adorned with flowers, prepared to carry the “cart of fire” and were transported from the farm.

7:30am – 8:00am

The oxen were attached to the cart and the procession began.

8:00am – 10:30am

The oxen and cart paraded throughout the city of Florence. As the procession continued, groups from throughout the city merged into the parade.

Il Scoppio del Carro, arrival at Duomo
The cart arrives at the Duomo!

By the time the procession reached the Duomo, there were people in traditional Renaissance dress, trumpeters, flag throwers, and a donkey. Oh, and a fire truck…just in case.


Knowing that crowds of tourists and locals would be overwhelming, we decided to head over to the location and find a spot two hours before the explosion. The explosion occurs in the space between the baptistry and the cathedral. We found a spot towards the front on the left side. Whether our spot was ideal is debatable. It seemed to be the “event staff” side. The area in front of our barricade filled with more and more staff, members of the media, and special guests as it got closer to the time of the explosion.

10:30am – 11:00am

Preparing for the explosion of the cart in Florence.
Everyone watched with anticipated as the final touches were put on the cart.

The cart crew made adjustments and last minute preparations. Meanwhile, the church service began and members of the church were seen going from the baptistry to the cathedral.

Blessing on Easter Sunday in Florence, Italy.
Blessing were given to the crowd as part of the Easter mass (before the cart exploded.)

The bishop passed through the crowds and gave blessings; flowers were distributed.

11:00am – 11:20am

Beginning of the explosion of the cart.
The beginning of the explosion.

At 11:00am, a (mechanical) white dove flew from the inside of the cathedral to the cart and triggered the explosion. The fireworks began, cracking and popping.

Smoke made it difficult to see the cart between explosions.

There were spinning wheels of fire and so much smoke at times that the cart couldn’t be seen! After the final fireworks went off, flags bearing the traditional Florentine symbol unfurled at the top of the cart.

Il Scoppio del Carro
The explosion of the cart! Miraculously, the cart itself doesn’t catch on fire: it will be used again next year.

11:30am – 12:30pm

When the explosion was over, the oxen were brought back to the cart and prepared to take it away from the crowd.

The crowd at Il Scoppio del Carro.
The crowd straining for a view–after the explosion.

Since we arrived earlier enough to be towards the front of the crowd, we got stuck when the explosion was over. As some people pushed there way out, the people from the back pushed forward, hoping to catch a glimpse of the cart…and squishing us closer to the fence. In the end, this was a really unique and fun way to spend Easter morning! 



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